“Bringing Amédé Home”: Amédé Ardoin Project statue unveiling, St. Landry Parish Visitor Center, March 11, 2018
Legendary Creole musician Amédé Ardoin symbolically came home to St. Landry Parish with the unveiling of a memorial statue on his 125th birthday. Next to the statue is a plaque with words from his song “Les Blues de Voyage.” After he was severely beaten reportedly in retaliation for borrowing a white woman’s handkerchief to wipe his brow during a performance, he never fully recovered and wound up at the Central Louisiana Hospital in Pineville, never to return home. He was buried there in 1942 in an unmarked grave along with 2,500 other patients.

Carrying lighted candles, Ardoin’s descendants, many of the contributors to the Amédé Ardoin Project to raise funds for the statue, and other lovers of Creole and Cajun music gathered March 11, 2018, outside the St. Landry Parish Visitor Center a few miles north of Opelousas to witness Russell Whiting unveil his sculpture. Later, seated beside the statue, Patricia Cravins, co-leader of the project, delivered a soliloquy from a play in which she had the role of Aurelia Clint, Améde’s mother.

Before the unveiling, everyone congregated inside the center to hear from Patricia Cravins and the other project co-leader, Darrell Bourque, Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, Celeste Gomez, executive director of the St. Landry Parish Tourist Commission, former Opelousas Mayor and State Senator Donald Cravins (who had a message from Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards), and Russell Whiting. Herman Fuselier, entertainment editor at The Daily Advertiser, served as emcee. After the unveiling, a reception was held in the center, and a jam session kicked off in an adjoining alcove.

Dexter Ardoin, grandson of Alphonse “Bois Sec” Ardoin, who was Amédé’s first cousin, and Goldman Thibodeaux, who told the crowd about his boyhood memory of seeing Amédé at a house dance, opened the session with “Eunice Two Step” and then continued with other songs from Amédé that are now at the heart of both the Creole and Cajun music traditions. Yvette Landry on rhythm guitar, Louis Michot on fiddle, and Israel Chaisson on rubboard soon joined the jam. Other accordionists and vocalists included Mary Broussard, Anna Guillory, and Lawrence Ardoin. Courtney Jeffries on guitar also took part.

The Amédé Ardoin Project will continue with a program to provide scholarships for students studying Louisiana zydeco and traditional French music. In addition, Darrell Bourque said that, as a tribute to Amédé, everyone is being encouraged to plant lemon trees. The statue depicts Amédé holding a lemon, which he would carry in his pocket in case he needed something to soothe his voice during his long performances at dances.

All of the photos in this album were taken with available light. I was in the music stage alcove when I realized the opening ceremonies had already started in the packed main room. I maneuvered through the crowd to get a little closer but then decided to just take wide shots with the camera over my head instead of trying to get any nearer to the speakers.

For a listing of Cajun and Zydeco bands and Mardi Gras photos included on these Flickr pages, go to www.cajunzydecophotos.com or www.cajunzydecophotos.com/mobile.
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