New Orleans native George Oldenberg moved to Lafayette to attend USL (now University of Louisiana Lafayette) and never went back. After 21 years in banking, he left his career in 2002 and bought Zoosiana in Broussard, La., one of a handful of privately-owned zoos in the U.S. “It’s a labor of love,” he gushes.
“Today, we produce about 750,000 bottles a day.” The speed with which the company historian tossed out that number is proof that Shane Bernard knows his Tabasco … past and present. “And that’s the red sauce, the classic red Tabasco sauce.” But the red sauce’s origins came, not from a farmer, not from a chef, but rather from a banker from the eastern United States.
I am not selling beer!” And had Herbert Schilling honored that proclamation he made back in 1949, what has since come to pass … might never have happened.
“My father,” begins his son, Herbert Schilling II, “came here from Shreveport in the 1920s. Neither he nor my uncle had the wherewithal to pay to travel, and they actually hopped a train, basically like hobos, to come to Lafayette to play baseball.” “To play baseball.” That doesn’t exactly lend itself to “starting a Budweiser beer distributorship,” now does it?
Growing up in Eunice, Chef Drake Leonards recalls being surrounded by great cooks and eating classic Louisiana dishes in every season. “I grew up like most of the folks I know, sharing meals in the homes of family and friends. We had simmering pots of seafood gumbo with warm potato salad, wild ducks or smothered venison roast in the winter, fried speckled trout, frog legs and crawfish étouffée in the spring, and plenty of vegetables in the summer. I first tasted lamb at a Tuesday night supper, not in a fancy restaurant,” Leonards remembers.
If you enjoy floating in deep blue water, watching stingrays, sharks and colorful fish gracefully swim by, find your way to paradise at Diver’s Destination, Lafayette’s go-to dive shop since 1986. Owner Greg Hidalgo started scuba diving in 1975 and taught diving lessons at Ski & Scuba before venturing out on his own. He describes lessons today as much less intimidating than in the past, due to more classes being held online.
Apollo King and Queen XLIV, David D’Aquin and Giulia Valentine, agree that the highlight of what they expected to be a one-year reign was the moment they stepped onto the stage at the 2020 Mystic Krewe of Apollo de Lafayette Ball Masque. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. I questioned whether it was worth it in the months of work leading up to the event,” said D’Aquin. “But that night, when I walked out on that stage, that’s why people tell you it’s worth it.” In the wake of the pandemic, the 2021 ball was postponed until 2022, extending D’Aquin and Valentine’s reign for a year. “I am the never-ending queen,” Valentine joked.
In the Savoy family, Cajun music roots run deep. At age seven, patriarch Marc Savoy learned fiddling from his French-speaking grandfather. At 12, he fashioned his own accordion using toilet float rods. By 25, he had launched his own accordion-making business, Savoy Music Center, in his hometown of Eunice, Louisiana.