Tuesday, February 11, 2014
On Christmas Eve, the Mississippi levies in Louisiana have over 100 teepee shaped log structures that are ignited creating a ten mile long series of bonfires. Different families are responsible for building and igniting their bonfires. Building these structures is a family tradition that has been passed down the generations. Cane reeds are added inside some of the structures. The cane reeds explode when on fire acting like a poor man's fireworks. Of course many fires also had fireworks inside. The homes near the levee had tents set up and large spreads of Gumbo to share with neighbors.
Claire Brown drove her parents along with Terry and myself to a parking spot a few blocks away. We walked to the levee and got there just as they were all ignited. It was a freezing cold night and I immediately started sketching as everyone else explored. When my fingers got to cold to move, I walked to the nearest bonfire to warm my hands and then I would go back to work. Huge professional grade rockets were being fired into the air only a few yards from me. It felt like a war zone. Traffic along the levee road was bumper to bumper with the red brake lights blazing.
Someone unfolded a long sheet of black plastic creating a trail down the steep slope. Children were given cardboard sheets that they could use as sleds and they barreled down the hill. The cold breeze blew the embers from the fires over the Mississippi river. Teepee bonfire structures began to fold and collapse inwards. Orange embers floated up to the star filled sky. This was truly a once in a lifetime experience. It is worth a trip to the Saint James Parish to experience it first hand.