Swamp Life Expo celebrates traditions of Atchafalaya life

An annual event Saturday in Grosse Tete gave generations young and old a closer look at how their ancestry lived and thrived off the resources in the massive Atchafalaya Basin.

Atchafalaya Basin life, history, and cuisine commanded the spotlight during the 10th annual Swamp Life Expo at the Iberville Visitors Center, overlooking Bayou Grosse Tete.

The event was sponsored by the Iberville Parish Council and Iberville Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso.

Attractions at the event included the handcrafts and art of swamp life, along with exhibits of the handmade cypress boats that served as the sole source of transportation for residents of the mighty Basin area. Other exhibits included hand-crafted paddles, as well an alligator display.

The event also featured live music from Terry and the Zydeco Bad Boys.

As with most Louisiana heritage celebrations, homemade Cajun food commanded a share of the spotlight. The mouthwatering cuisine included duck, goose and andouille sausage, Cajun boudin wraps, swamp bucket sauce piquante, hog cracklins, sweet potato pie, and bread pudding.

The event drew nearly several hundred to the north end of Iberville Parish for an annual celebration that has continued to grow, according to Iberville Parish Environmental Manager John Clark, who devised the concept for the annual event.

"The whole thing is about a culture of people who grew up in the bayou country, in the Atchafalaya Basin, connected to the water source," he said. "It's all about heritage and restoring pride in the community, and for the future generations to know about their heritage, see where their ancestors came from."

In addition, the event featured a Walnut Bayou "Streamulator Model" that showed the formation of natural rivers by way of flowing water. The interactive attraction – presented by the state Department of Environmental Quality – gave youngsters a chance to design a healthy, sustainable river.

Another exhibit demonstrated local waters flow into the Barataria Terrebonne Estuary and then to the Gulf of Mexico, and the unique wildlife and fisheries in the estuary through an exhibit by the Barataria Terrebonne National Estuary Program (BTNEP).

The event extends beyond a celebration of the culture. It's also an effort to keep the heritage alive, Clark said.

"I'm not from here," Clark said. "I look at things from the outside, and people take things for granted. I say, now, what they do here is very unique. This is how things began. It's about keeping those connections in place."

The event also served as a reminder of the importance to keep the swamp heritage alive.

The North Iberville corridor of Grosse Tete, Rosedale and Maringouin often gets overlooked in stories of Atchafalaya heritage, Clark said.

"This is a good way to promote this area and show people that this portion of the parish is a diamond in the rough," he said. "This is the eastern gateway to the Atchafalaya Basin, and it has been overlooked.

"What people saw here today was what their grandparents talk about, but in a different light," Clark said. "What people see here is something they may never see again."