By IVETTE FIGUEROA
School of Communication
University of Miami
Posted June 1, 2010
THIBODAUX, La.—The Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center (WACC), part of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, has made it its mission to interpret the cultural and natural history of the Mississippi River delta region and make that history accessible to the Thibodaux community.
“Here at WACC, we are able to interpret the many people that settled along Bayou Lafourche and the southern Louisiana delta region, from the Native Americans, French, German, Spanish (Isleno), Acadian (Cajun), American, and African-American,” said Park Ranger Allyn Rodriguez.
|At right, The Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center houses a visitor center, exhibits, library, theater and other performance spaces (Photos by Bruce Garrison). Below, Park Ranger Allyn Rodriguez discusses the center. Last, artifacts of the original Cajun settlers of the lower delta region on display in this interactive historical exhibit.|
The WACC facilities include exhibits that explore the lifestyles of the early delta region settlers. Recreation, clothing, home furnishings, religion, cuisine and fishing are just a few aspects explored through the artifacts, videos and film viewings held at the center.
“The exhibits offer people a chance to get close to pieces of our history and the Children’s Exhibit Hall (Gumbo Room) offers interactive exhibits on everything from sugarcane to life in the wetlands,” said Rodriguez.
The facilities also include a 200-seat theater used for productions by the Thibodaux Playhouse, Inc. The community theater originally only produced plays about or by Cajuns, but the dwindling supply of fresh material has forced the theater’s performers to broaden their repertoire.
“The community theater offers productions, using local talent, to expose people to the cultures of the U.S., and in the summer they offer a children’s production to introduce local kids to theater,” Rodriguez said.
But the Wetlands Center is not just a museum of relics; it also hosts a variety of programs to help visitors connect with the environment and cultures of this region.
Delta music jams are held in the performance space every Monday and those with a passion for traditional Cajun music can bring their own instruments to join the fun every first and third Saturday of the month.
There are daily ranger-led walking tours of historic downtown Thibodaux, where the stories of the people and the myriad of architectural styles are explored and explained.
The Wetlands Center places special emphasis on children, with special programs such as the summer camps and the First Bloom Program that offer creative, interactive opportunities.
“The summer camps are weeklong experiences for kids ages 7 to 12 where they delve into our wetlands, learn from visiting experts and explore local plantations and life styles,” said Rodriguez, who coordinates the summer programs.
First Bloom is a National Park Foundation program that connects kids between fourth and sixth grades to nature and national parks. First Bloom kids meet with park rangers monthly over one program year. They engage in outdoor, hands-on activities to help build their relationship with the outdoors.
“Inner city kids learn about native plants by creating a native plant garden and by going with rangers to explore native ecosystems in the surrounding areas.
"We offer some programs to help visitors connect with the environment and the cultures of this region because they both have had significant impact on each other,” Rodriguez said.
So, if you’re interested in a more proactive approach to history, visit the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center.
For more information on the events held at the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center visit http://www.nps.gov/jela/planyourvisit/events.htm.
If You Go