Around Louisiana-Northern Louisiana


Worth all the fuzz
It’s been 57 years since Ruston held its first festival to rightfully celebrate Lincoln Parish’s stellar fruit –– the succulent sunset-colored orb known as the Ruston peach. The 2008 Squire Creek Louisiana Peach Festival will be held from June 27 through June 29 and brims with events as enjoyable as a fat peach cobbler warm from the oven and covered with melting vanilla ice cream.

Railroad Park will be the scene of nightly live music, with performers including Bayou Crossing, the Buddy Terzia Band and Mason Granade Band. Festival headliner Asleep at the Wheel will star in the Peach Jam on closing night. Sunday afternoon will be filled with gospel music in Railroad Park. Children will love participating in the pet show, with its categories of Best-Dressed Pet and Best Trick, among others, as well as a peach-eating contest. The festival also sponsors the Diaper Derby, babies crawling a pre-set distance to beat the clock, at the Trinity Center of the Trinity United Methodist Church on Woodward Avenue. The Ruston Rodeo Arena will hold a genuine rodeo for the first two nights of the fair.

Interspersed within the event that honors flaky peach pies, cobblers, preserves, salsas, chutneys and ice cream will be the signature handiwork of the Louisiana Peach Festival Arts & Crafts Show held at the Ruston Civic Center. More than 150 artisans from across Louisiana will proudly display their handmade jewelry and crafts, all of which will be judged by a jury. Lincoln Parish pulls out all the stops to make certain a wonderful time is had by all before you take home baskets of its pet product.

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Deflecting the blows
The northern sector of Louisiana has begun a concerted effort to combat the problem of domestic violence in the state, which ranks No. 1 in the nation when it comes to spousal abuse. During a recent community meeting held at the Morehouse Parish Sheriff’s Office training facility, District Five Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell explained a resolution geared to help victims of domestic abuse. Women in the District Five area who are ready to leave abusive domestic environments but unable to afford the often-steep deposits required for utilities or rent can now obtain waivers that will cover the expense.

“Many victims have wanted to move out but didn’t have the cash or credit to get themselves set up,” says Campbell. “We did this as a way to help them get set up.”
To apply for the waivers, women in abusive situations can obtain the necessary forms from the sheriff’s office, the Wellspring Alliance or the Fourth District Attorney’s Office. In order for them to be recommended to the program, the form must be completed and signed by a qualified person.

Ouachita Parish, which has the highest number of domestic abuse cases in the state (400 cases reported last year alone), recently formed a parish response unit after the U.S. Department of Justice awarded the Family Justice Center in Monroe $400,000 to tackle the alarming problem. The Family Justice Center offers free confidential assistance for victims of stalking and domestic violence, as well as sexual assault.
This domestic abuse unit, led by supervisor Renee Smith, consists of one other woman and three men. One attorney from the Fourth Judicial District Attorney’s Office has been assigned to handle abuse cases full time. According to District Attorney Jerry Jones, who fought for and won state legislation that resulted in harsher penalties for convicted domestic abusers, this unit is the first of its kind in the country.

“The purpose of this unit,” says Jones, “is to punish those who violate the law and abuse their spouses, but the reduction of domestic violence is the ultimate goal. Unchecked domestic violence leads to the hospital or the graveyard. Renee Smith has assigned very qualified people from each agency to do domestic follow-ups.”
These follow-ups include trials and hearings to seek more restrictive probation and bond releases. The plan also includes ankle bracelets to be worn by defendants until their cases are settled so that their whereabouts can be tracked at all times, ensuring the safety of their victims.

Anyone in need of assistance should contact:
Wellspring Alliance, 529 N. Washington St., Bastrop, (318) 281-3655 or Family Justice Center, 620 Riverside Drive, Monroe, (318) 998-6030.


Big Easy landing
Growing up in Uptown New Orleans, I lived around the corner from a very relaxed neighborhood institution geared for imbibing –– in other words, a bar –– that also served boiled seafood. On Friday afternoons, the proprietor would retire to his cinder block garage, the side of which flanked our driveway. Looking like someone in a happier version of the opening act of Macbeth, he would stir smoking and bubbling cauldrons as the classic New Orleans smell of seasoned boiled crawfish, corn and potatoes spiced the evening air.

Gabbeaux’s Bayles Landing Restaurant, with its New Orleans-style food in West Monroe, recalls this same casual, neighborly ambience. Sip a Peach Hurricane, a wicked potion of Gabbeaux’s Special Hurricane Mix, light rum, 151-proof rum and peach schnapps. Appetizers such as the Stuffed Baked Shrimp come to your table marinating in Creole shrimp butter with enough bread to keep you dipping until the entree is ready. Crawfish can be had by the bucket, accompanied by potatoes and corn. Reminiscent of the old West End restaurants on Lake Pontchartrain, seafood platters of fried shrimp, fish, oysters or combinations of all are served with fries, hush puppies and garlic bread, with jambalaya thrown in for good measure. Red beans and rice are served with garlic bread and smoked sausage. Shrimp LaFitte, shrimp tossed in a medley of vegetables grilled in olive oil, herbs and spices, spills over angel-hair pasta. The poor boys, made with bread from Gambino’s Bakery in New Orleans, are huge and overstuffed.

This unassuming eatery, consistently rated the No. 1 dining experience in West Monroe, packs a powerful punch in the dessert department, as well. Rich and decadent bourbon pecan pie sits on a saucer drizzled with chocolate sauce. Get carried away by Gabbeaux’s Bayou Mud Slide, a slab of fudge brownie covered with French vanilla ice cream, thick whipped cream and chocolate and crowned with a cherry. Gabbeaux’s also offers a very simply named dessert called Fried Dough –– New Orleanians will recognize these fluffy delights covered in powdered sugar as beignets.

Gabbeaux’s Bayles Landing, 113 S. Riverfront St., West Monroe, (318) 322-8278