Zydeco music and the Coushatta people have deep roots in Allen Parish in southwestern Louisiana. And both take center stage at a new cultural center in the town of Kinder.
A hall of fame of local zydeco musicians
Allen Parish is proud of its musical roots that run deep in the traditions of southwestern Louisiana’s popular zydeco music. And some of its local musical heroes take center stage at the parish’s new visitors center located along US Hwy 165 in the town of Kinder. The cultural center features musical instruments, stage outfits, photographs, awards and stories behind the music. And if you want to sample the music, a jukebox is loaded with freshly cut 45 rpm records so you can listen, or even dance, to the bluesy 2-step beat.
Allen parish zydeco musicians featured in tv story
Zydeco bandleader Leroy Thomas is on hand for the official opening of the cultural center, which features a display of his father, zydeco legend Leo Thomas. Thomas recalls that he started playing accordion at age 18 in his father’s band. His dad was the drummer and lead singer. “And when we finished the show, everybody would surround him,” Thomas says. “They would just wave at me.”
A proud musical heritage
In addition to Leo Thomas, Beau Jocque and other musicians who are no longer with us, current performers are also featured here. JoJo Reed, who gladly plays a bluesy riff on his accordion, is part of the exhibit. And Bernie Alan, another accordian player and band leader, has donated his grandmother’s accordion. Alan says he learned how to play music on that old accordion, often sneaking it out of its case when his grandmother wasn’t around.
allen parish’s native american roots
The Coushatta have called this part of southwestern Louisiana their home for two centuries. They have tribal lands and a casino resort near the cultural center in Kinder. Coushatta Tribal Chairman Jonathan Cernek says the culture of his people, “Fits in with everything else that Southwest Louisiana is – hunting, fishing, family gatherings, great music and good food.” The Coushatta are known for their tightly woven baskets of longleaf pine. Several of the handmade baskets are on display.
step inside a louisiana swamp
They call it the “T Swamp”. “T” is short for “petite”, a common Cajun expression for something small. A variety of Louisiana birds, waterfowl, animals, reptiles and amphibians are on display in a simulated Louisiana swamp. A ghostly character is projected in the swamp scene as a voice with a Cajun accent tells a few swamp tales. It’s an immersive experience, complete with the sounds and smells of the swamp.
The Allen Parish Visitors and Cultural Center is located along US Highway 165 near the town of Kinder, Louisiana. Address: 12855 US-165, Kinder, LA. Phone: (337) 738-4087.