From Where I Stand

by Jerrica B.

This year was the 9th annual photo contest hosted by the Monroe-West Monroe Conventions and Visitors Bureau. For the past few years, we’ve partnered with BayouLife.

The theme this year was “From Where I Stand.” We had over 100 submissions into our photo contest, and there were many great shots to choose from. It’s a testament to how beautiful our parish is, but also to the talented photographers that we have here. So many unique perspectives were represented. It was awesome.

After we chose the theme, we checked the Instagram to see if there was already that hashtag in existence… There was. If you frequent that app, you might be familiar with #fromwhereistand. The majority of the photos are pictures of feet. Literally, where people were standing. That was a concern of ours—that we would get lots of feet pictures. Needless to say, that was not what we intended.

I am proud to announce that out of 109 submissions, we had only 1 feet picture. Ladies and gentleman, that is quite… a feat. (Yes, pun absolutely intended.)

Chandler Robinson- Bayou Living (Student)
It was this one, which is actually pretty cool. Go Warhawks. “Bayou Living” by Chandler Robinson

Thank you to all of those who submitted a photo. Our judges had some hard decisions to make. They based their decisions on three categories—photo quality, relevance to theme, and advertising usability. Our contest winners were announced today at the Tourism Industry Luncheon and Awards. So, without further ado, here are the 2016 Photo Contest Winners:

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BEST OF SHOW, “Biedenharn at Night” by Michelle Tripp

Yvonne Frost- DowntownAdult Category- 1st Place, “Downtown” by Yvonne Frost

Mohan Krishna - Gator Scape (002)
Adult Category- 2nd Place, “Gator Scape” by Mohan Krishna Ragaraja
Burg Ransom- Intense
Adult Category- 3rd Place, “Intense” by Burg Ransom
Chandler Robinson- Pride of Monroe(Student)
Student Category- 1st Place, “Pride of Monroe” by Chandler Robinson
Nicole Miller- IMG_9174-3 (Student)
Student Category- 2nd Place, “Breath of Freedom” by Nicole Miller
Simran Kang- Sunlit Path (Student)
Student Category- 3rd Place, “Sunlit Path” by Simran Kang

Congratulations to all of our winners! And be on the look out for our Best of Show winner on the cover of BayouLife Magazine in July. Thank you all for making this photo contest a success!

 

5 Reasons you can’t miss the Louisiana Crawfish & Gator Festival

By Lindsey W.

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Crawfish & Gator Festival

The 2nd Annual Louisiana Crawfish and Gator Festival returns to the Ike Hamilton Exposition Center in West Monroe this weekend from May 4 – 8, 2016. And here are 5 reasons why you can’t miss this festival:

  1. Kachunga and the Alligator Show! You’ll be on the edge of your seat with this action packed Man vs. Alligator show. They will perform three shows every day of the festival.
  2. Music and dancing! The festival will feature John Anderson and Jo El Sonnier, as well as many local country bands and singers including Mustang Sally, Mike McKenzie, and Dave Gore to name a few. Click HERE for the full line-up.
  3. Fun for the kids with Rock-It the Robot and the petting zoo! Rock-It features lights and music with life-like facial expressions and movements. The petting zoo will feature rabbits, goats, kangaroos, and pony rides.
  4. Fireworks! The Crawfish & Gator Fest will go out with a BANG with a fireworks show to wrap up the week’s events.
  5. Crawfish! It’s Louisiana. What other reason do you need?

Admission is $10 for Adults and $3 for Children 12 and under. Special admission price on Wednesday is $1. Rides are $1.50 each and armbands for rides are offered Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Bring the whole family! There is something for everyone at the festival.

Schedule:

Wednesday: Open 4 pm to close
Thursday: Open 2 pm to close
Friday: Open  4 pm to close
Saturday: Open 10 am
Sunday: Open 11 am

For more information, click HERE to check out their website.

‘Rita’s on the River

by Janna J.

The Downtown River Market hosted Monroe-West Monroe’s first margarita festival, ‘Rita’s on the River, on April 2. I may be partial due to my love for margaritas, but this event was a huge success. With 12 local restaurants competing for title of best margarita, live music,  food trucks, shopping, and even a kid’s craft table ‘Rita’s on the River had all the ingredients for a perfect Louisiana Saturday afternoon.

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Avocado’s Food Truck

After making it through the first 3 of the 15 margarita samples that came with my ticket my stomach stared craving something to eat. Lucky for me there were food trucks on site. Avocado’s food truck was a crowd favorite with their tacos that complimented the margaritas perfectly. After I had a few tacos to reboots my energy I was ready to shop till I dropped at the vendor booths. The vendor booths had everything from jellies and jams, handmade jewelry, clothing, specialty wood work, to fresh grown tomatoes. It was a shopping lover’s paradise. Caster and Chicory, a local pop up beignet shop was also in attendance at ‘Rita’s on the River. Their yummy fresh beignets were hands down my favorite purchase of the day.

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Caster & Chicory Pop-up Stand

Rita’s on the River wasn’t just designed for adults with its tasty margarita’s. Thanks to a kids craft table and live music from Roses and Revolvers, Josh Ezell and Early Ray, and Mario’s Mariachi Band this was an event the entire family could enjoy.

The competition for the title of best margarita was fierce as restaurants such as Avocado’s, Don Thomas Cantina, Iron Cactus, River & Rail, Warehouse No. 1, Brass Monkey, The Restaurant Sage, Trapp’s, Fieldhouse, Neat, Pickle Barrel, and Taco Bandido all had their best selling margarita’s prepared for the judges. Ultimately Avocado’s took home the coveted best margarita award, with Warehouse No. 1 receiving the people’s choice award.

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Judge’s Table

If you loved ‘Rita’s on the River just as much as I did, be sure to check out the upcoming events brought to you by our friends at the Downtown River Market:

April 28-30: Spring Fling

May 7: Geeks Along the River

May 21: LA Food & Music Festival

June 4: BrewFest

And keep up with all the fun events planned in Monroe-West Monroe by checking our our Calendar of Events!

Music in the hills of Landry Vineyards

by Jerrica B.

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Landry Vineyards- Photo by Mike Roberts

Our hometown vineyard sits on the edge of West Monroe. It’s a neat, log-cabin style building in the midst of rolling hills decked with rows upon rows of beautiful grape vines. It’s a local treasure. Guests can visit the vineyard to taste their delicious wines or tour their stunning property (or do both). And in the spring and fall, they give you another reason to come out!

The concert series that takes place at Landry Vineyards is always a good time. Hundreds of people turn out for each of their concert weekends, and there is only ONE left for the spring!

landry vineyards, west monroe louisiana
Landry Vineyards Concert, Photo by Rebekah Landry

This season’s series has featured Lisa Spann & Company, Nathan Williams & the Zydeco Cha-Chas, and Code Blue & The Flatliners. Next week, Smackwater will take the stage, bringing a blend of classic rock, rhythm & blues, and cajun genres to the vineyard.

After a summer hiatus, the concert series will be back with their Blanc Du Bois Stomp Fest on August 13th. This exciting event will feature the Mike McKenzie Band. Bring out the whole family for a Lucille Ball look-a-like contest. The ladies who participate can stomp grapes and then place their juice-soaked footprints on Landry Vineyards t-shirts as a keepsake from the event.

lucy, landry vineyards, west monroe louisiana
Lucy Look-a-Like Contest

If you can’t make it to that event, no worries! The Red Grape Stomp Fest is on August 27th. Another Lucy look-a-like contest and another grape stomp will take place. Lisa Spann & Company will be playing, and ladies who participate can also footprint their t-shirts.

After the stomp fests, the regular concert series resumes. The schedule takes place as follows:

September 10th –Code Blue & The Flatliners
September 24th – Mike McKenzie Band
October 8th – The Cartoons
October 22nd – Mason Granade

 

For a full schedule of their concert series, click here.

So start making your plans for the Landry Vineyards’ concert series. You can bring lawn chairs, blankets, and even a picnic dinner! There will be food available for purchase, but they do not allow outside alcohol. Support the vineyard and purchase one of their fine wines instead! Pets are not allowed either.

Junior League Spring Market a Hit

by Jerrica B.

Is your life a little bit happier? Your closet a little bit fuller? Your wallet a little bit lighter? Chances are, you went to this year’s Spring Market.

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Spring Market Registration Booth

If you weren’t already in the mood for spring, you were when you left this event. The bright colors and floral decorations were a pleasant reminder that we were days away from the official start of the loveliest season. We already knew that spring was coming early this year, thanks to Punxsutawney Phil, but the Spring Market really made it feel like winter was behind us, even when it was a cool 50 degrees outside.

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Festive and bright spring decor

The Junior League of Monroe held their annual fundraiser last month, and over 5,000 people came out to shop. With over 100 vendors from 26 different states, it was hard to pass up this unique opportunity for a true one-stop shop.

Shoppers could browse through clothing, skin care lines, security systems, and even hunting bows. The options really were endless. On top of that, several restaurants were on site serving food. You could eat there, and then continue your shopping!

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Dining area

The Junior League likes to keep the event fresh each year by building on the year before. Two years ago, they added the Breakfast with Bunnies event, which was a huge hit. This year, the vendors came from 26 different states, which is a new record for them. They hope to continue to grow, and bring more business to our town.

This year, the event took place amidst the disastrous events of the flood. However, those at the League hoped that their event would provide a brief reprieve from the happenings of the previous week. People who were suffering or who were dealing with the situation, could spend time with friends and family at the market.

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Shopping at the Spring Market

The Junior League raised over $105,000 at their Spring Market, and all of that money goes right back into our community. This organization is very involved in the education system. Every year they adopt a school to provide for. They also award grants to teachers throughout the year. They organize ACT workshop classes for local high schools, and they also have a program to help first-time mothers. So for those who spent money at the Spring Market, know that your money is going to good causes!

Thanks to the Junior League of Monroe for putting on a great event! For all of you shopaholics out there, start saving up for next year! It’s sure to be even bigger and even better.

5 Quick Bites in Monroe-West Monroe

by Jerrica B.

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” – Orson Welles

One hour. That’s what most working citizens get for their lunch breaks. Sometimes we use this time to relax before we finish our work day, or we use it to run errands. Either way, we usually don’t have time for a sit down meal.

So what can we do?

I’m here to tell you that there is hope. Many of our local restaurants in Monroe-West Monroe provide delicious lunches that are served quickly and have plenty of variety. Here are just a few of our great local options:

poboy, daily press
Cajun Turkey Poboy at Daily Press
  1. Daily Press (Monroe- 2899 Sterlington Rd., 318-329-9595; 2300 Louisville Ave., 318-855-4588; 1115 Garrett Rd., 318-605-2378)

With 3 locations right in Monroe’s busiest hubs, this restaurant is not only quick, but easy to get to. They offer salads, sandwiches, and baked potatoes. They also serve coffee and various desserts, including froyo. Try their chicken salad sandwich on a warm, flaky croissant or their delicious Cajun Turkey Poboy. Their locations are also gas stations, so you can grab bottled drinks, candy, and chips while you’re there. BONUS: Bring your receipt inside after you fill up on gas, and you get $1 off a combo meal. How’s that for a one-stop shop? West Monroe residents, be on the lookout for one in your town later this year!

bbq. west monroe
Chicken, ribs, and sausage plate with BBQ beans and potato salad at BBQ West
  1. BBQ West (West Monroe- 4900 Cypress St., 318-396-7455)

They prepare your meal right in front of you as you order. Grab a to-go plate or dine in with the Best of the Delta’s Best BBQ restaurant of 2015. Try their delicious chopped beef sandwich, or their ¼ chicken plate. Ask for fries to go with it! Note: You might have to take extra precautions to ensure that BBQ sauce doesn’t get on your clothes, but the quality of the food definitely makes it worth your while.

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Sweet & Sour Chicken & Cabbage Dinner at Cilantro
  1. Cilantro Organic Bistro (Monroe- 1211 N 18th St., 318-387-8446)

Located right inside Fiesta Nutrition Center on N 18th in Monroe, this restaurant is your go-to for quick, healthy meals. Their menu changes up every day, but they always serve vegetarian choices, gluten-free options, and a variety of other creative, healthy meals. You can pick-up or eat-in, if you’d like. If you have extra time, browse their store’s supplements, organic grocery, or natural beauty products. Follow Fiesta Nutrition Center on Instagram for daily menu updates!

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Eastern Chinese Restaurant
  1. Eastern Chinese (West Monroe- 3426 Cypress St., 318-396-8181)

Locals rave about this restaurant’s quick service and delicious food. Call in your order ahead of time for even quicker service. Check out their lunch specials for a delicious meal that won’t hurt your wallet! This place may be small, but they have big flavor. Don’t miss out on this great Chinese cuisine! Check out their menu on their website.

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  1. Big Momma’s Fine Foods (Monroe- 1118 S 2nd St., 318-388-5678)

This restaurant has your home-style cookin’ cravings covered. Fried chicken, beef tips, black eyed peas, and mashed potatoes are all on the menu. This place is one where you can just go through the line, order, and go. You can grab it to-go or eat in. Try their hot water cornbread paired with one of their delicious entrees for a soul-food experience like no other!

So next time you need to grab a quick bite, give these great restaurants a try. These are just a few of the many, great options that we have here in Monroe-West Monroe.

What are some of your favorite quick, local places? Comment and let us know!

Spring Fever hits the Downtown Gallery Crawl

As nature springs forth with color and variety this April, the Downtown Arts Alliance celebrates the ever-brightening burst of local artistic talents displayed in eight downtown galleries this April 7, 5-9 pm.

Accompanied by live music and good food and drink, the galleries will present residents and visitors alike the opportunity to enjoy the visual arts. Springtime seems particularly appropriate for this sort of colorful party! On the first Thursday of even-numbered months, visual artists generously share their works with art-lovers of all ages during the Downtown Gallery Crawls. Thursday, April 7, 5-9 pm, is again time to enjoy art in the cultural districts of downtown Monroe and West Monroe. Totally free, the evening includes wonderful art of all kinds. Downtown River Jam will also present live music at Bry Park, downtown Monroe, during the Crawl.

Original art will be for sale, too, with no sales taxes charged because the galleries are in an official cultural district. Resident and guest artists will be on hand to talk with patrons about their art. And neighbors will simply enjoy visiting with neighbors during this bi-monthly occasion!

Here’s a sample of what you’ll find at this month’s crawl:

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A sculpture by Bill Ayers, featured artist at UPSTAIRS
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Girls in the Field by Rachael Hudnall, featured at The River Gallery
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Photography by Burg Ransom, featured at Sugar Gallery
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Painting by Katie Minyard, featured at Rumo’s Gallery

For more information on the Downtown Gallery crawl, visit their website or Facebook page.