This Interstate-10 rest stop offers a special South Louisiana combo, live Cajun music and live alligators. The popular Gator Chateau in Jennings, know for its small alligators for petting, has biweekly Cajun jam sessions.
Pet an alligator and enjoy live cajun music
Most of the tourists who stop at this park along I-10 want “to go see the baby alligators and hold the baby alligators,” explains Doug Dugas, who organizes the Cajun music jam sessions. He adds, “But they stop and listen to the music.” The Southwest Louisiana Acoustic Cajun Music Association has been playing at Gator Chateau every other Saturday for the past ten years.
a teaching moment
The focus is on learning the music, explains Dugas. “We try to teach the original chording, the original way the music was taught and played,” he says. All ages of players are welcome to join the musical circle and strum along on an acoustic guitar or play fiddle.
a musical heritage
Fellow jam organizer Ken Lyon believes that preserving the music also helps to save the history of Louisiana’s Cajun people. French-speaking Acadians began settling along the bayous of south Louisiana 350 years ago after being exiled from Nova Scotia. “When they came here, the only thing that they brought with them instrument-wise was a fiddle,” Lyon explains. He adds, “And they played their fiddles and they sang.” Some of their stories of heartache and love are captured in the French lyrics of the songs.
Cajun music and gators on tv
The Gator Chateau Tourist Information Center and Park is located at Interstate-10 Exit 64 in Jennings. The park is on the north I-10 service road. For dates and times of the next Cajun Jam session, click here for the Southwest LA Acoustic Cajun Music Association Facebook page.