Tourism Bounces Back After Katrina

The Big Easy exceeds pre-Katrina visitor spending after ten years of rebuilding and re-establishing the tourism industry and beyond. Over a decade has passed since the catastrophe hit the withered shores of South Louisiana, a territory already set below sea level, which was as deep as 12 feet as of 2000.

In 2004, New Orleans hit the record of 10.1 million visitors who spent a booming $2.9 billion. After Katrina, that number shrank down to 3.7 million visitors.Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 5.48.01 PM

The broken levees caused 80% of the city to be submerged underwater including the cities’ famous hotspots such as parts Bourbon Street.

The storm that ended in 1,833 deaths and $180 billion in damages didn’t stop the city from reemerging into one of the most loved cities we know today.

10346895-large

 

The tourism industry counts for $5 billion of the economy each year and employees over 70,000 people including chefs, street performers and tour guides. However, New Orleans offers much more than the culture and food, it holds one of the world’s busiest port and one of the nation’s primary sources for crude oil.Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 5.55.48 PM

Even though years have passed, some people still don’t know how much the city has progressed.

LSU student Cecilia Vazquez studying International Studies says, “I think people think we are still flooded, [laughs] which is obviously not true. Our city is thriving again.”

The history of gradual, but successful comebacks of destroyed cities are plentiful. The Chicago fire of 1871 destroyed nearly the entire downtown of Chicago leaving 90,000 people homeless. City officials started rebuilding with fireproof materials before the blueprints were finished. Most of the city was reconstructed by the 1880s, which is relatively quickly for a city in the 19th Century.

The rebuilding of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake and European cities, such as Hamburg, bombed during WWII is also notable because of the devastation that ensued and the lack of firm governmental protocols.

It’s proof that cities can rebuild and reconstruct even after periods of devastation and what seems like it will never be fixed.

Neighborhoods including St. Bernard Parish and the lower 9th Ward suffered the most, while icons such as the French Quarter and the Garden District didn’t see too much damage at all.

Today, there are many a abundance of music festivals that bring in record-breaking visitors and 600 more restaurants to choose from.

New Orleans native, Troy Johnson says, “Most of our city was basically demolished and we built it back up to something bigger and better.”

The Saints Super Bowl Win in 2009 might have had something to do with the sense of determination to overcome the aftermath.

Jason Anseman from Metairie said, “I was watching the [Saints] game with a buddy at a bar and people were crying. It was surreal.”

The city is about to celebrate its 300th anniversary in 2018 and plans to attract 13.7 million people. Breaking this milestone will surely get residents to surpass the Katrina-era with newfound hope and courage.

Advertisements

East Baton Rouge School Board Meeting

The East Baton Rouge School Board Center was a full house on April 21st where parents, teachers and students stood to watch their favorite staff members get recognized.

The recognition of Rhonda Ware for the Barnes and Noble “My Favorite Teacher” award was nominated by one of her own students Kensey Rivera. Many other principles and teachers were awarded for academic achievement and progress.

The decision to approve the motion of establishing Baton Rouge Foreign Language Academic Immersion Magnet (BRFLAIM) in downtown Baton Rouge was made. BRFLAIM will be extended into Polk Elementary School where students from second to fifth grade will be indulged in the program.

BRFLAIM provides students full immersion in one of three languages provided: Spanish, French and Mandarin. Since this is also a magnet program, students are required to maintain a 2.5 or higher. Students are not only interacting in their target language (TL) for 60-70 percent of their day, they also score higher on standardized tests than traditional teaching programs. The child must be accepted into the program at the kindergarten or 1st grade level in order to participate.

The EBR School Board voted 8-0 in favor of the expansion after much debate and these changes will happen in the upcoming 2016-2017 school year.

Deputy Superintendent Dr. Michelle Clayton stressed how Polk had been experiencing low enrollment in the past few years. Polk has about 150 students there currently, but need around 250 students to be considered for the expansion.

Dr. Clayton said, “I would like to see at least 250 students each year, so it’s not always being considered of closure.”

The program that consisted of only Spanish and Mandarin was called FLAIM II, but now both will be merged as one and will operate at Polk and the Mayflower campus.

The expansion of FLAIM had plenty of supporters. Patrick Morse, former PTO, short for Parent Teacher Organization, president and father of a FLAIM student said, “I am very passionate about this program and I will do whatever I can to help recruit for FLAIM.”

However, there were some audience members who didn’t like the idea of expansion because they didn’t want to split children up and strip away the strong community.

Vicki Dosan, a Polk employee said, “The parents here embrace the teachers and there is a sense of community that I can’t even explain at this moment.”

The primary reason for supporters of the expansion is to retreat from the Mayflower campus which is in poor condition. School system authorities have also thought of building a new facility that could fit up to 900 students. This proposal could be brought to voters as early as 2018 Clayton said.

Supporters find the program beneficial to have their children and students be able to learn more about their heritage.

Hannah Burchman, mother of FLAIM 1st grader said, “ I was once terrified of EBR schools, but since being apart of the FLAIM program, it would take a mountain for me to move.”

“Spotlight” Analysis

The Oscar Award winning film, “Spotlight” portrays investigative reporting of the Boston priest molestation scandals in a whole new level. The reporting itself shed a new light on this topic and eventually led to the discovery of similar cases throughout the world. It created a widespread break through of the Catholic Church and what they stood for. Although, the entire project they are investigating involves emotionally heavy content, the movie focuses completely on the newsgathering and journalism that went behind it, which makes it stand out among other award winning movies.

The real-life Spotlight team is based at The Boston Globe and was created in the 70s. It continues to be the oldest investigative reporting unit in the United States and won a Pulitzer Prize because of their phenomenal reporting on the sex abuse scandals against the Catholic Church in the early 2000s.

The entire movie dramatizes the intensity of in-depth reporting, which went into the scandal that was swept under the rug beneath the city of Boston. The Spotlight team dedicates months or even years focusing on one project or story, so they can provide the best quality of information to their readers. A controversial topic such as the one this film depicts requires an abundance amount of research, interviewing and getting hands on the right documents. In the case of this story, the documents they needed were sealed.

This story involved a series of corruption and unethical behavior from all levels of authority besides the priests themselves making it an even more compelling story these reporters couldn’t wait to get out to the public.

There is, however, a big difference between this story and any other given story the Globe has written. The reporters gained an emotional attachment to the story itself. As being apart of the audience, I could almost feel their compassion and willingness to bring the story for the public to see. And not for profit or recognition, but for the acknowledgement of a disgusting reality those young children were facing.

The members of the team physically walk to the homes of those they interview and faced the challenge of people who hated reporters. They spoke to victims about their most personal life experiences and underwent the unsettling feeling.

Since this was also a time where the Internet had not taken full force, I noticed the abundance of files and documents that the editors would have to study for days at a time to pick up one piece of information. I specifically recall the scene where Robinson, Renendez and Carroll go through the several directories of Boston clergy members. Today, a simple task such as that would take a few clicks on the Internet.

Technology has had a profound impact on journalism. The rapid innovations and the emergence of social media have changed the way people read their news. Print newspapers have become almost obsolete but the industry itself, print journalism, is in no way dying. It’s in a period of transition and you can start to see the transformation in this movie with their use of e-mail, cell phones and light Internet use.

Knowing this is a biographical drama; the audience can sense the urgency to get the story in the hands of the readers. The emotional stories of the victims and the ignorance of the churchgoers exemplify the drama of what the reporters were trying to uncover. They spoke to the same lawyer multiple times despite the lack of information he shared. They resorted to aggression when trying to access what was thought to be the sealed documents. They did whatever they needed to do to reveal accurate information.

“Spotlight” simply shows the action of the reporters and the work that goes into under-the-radar stories such as this one. The journalists are doing their job and this movie emphasizes the extreme investigation that took place back in 2001. In some ways it decreases the stigma of journalists and their sometime skewed use of media coverage. “Spotlight” is a genuine, determined team that uses their expertise to, in this case, change an entire society’s perspective on something as crucial as this.

Red Stick Farmer’s Market

Downtown Baton Rouge put on their weekly Red Stick Farmer’s Market Saturday morning.

The Farmer’s Market welcomes everyone to the cluster of local vendors between 5th and Main Street every Saturday from 8 to 12. The vendors vary from farmers selling vegetables to those selling elaborate balsamic vinegars including Fekete Farm who sell their freshest fruits and vegetables and Harbo Bee Company who sell honey “exactly as the bees make it.”

Rows of tents line Main Street under the gloomy spring sky. Fresh greens and herbs fill the walkway with a unique aroma encircle the entrance. Smiling faces stand under each tent ready to respond to any questions a patron may have.

There is a children’s tarp with coloring sheets underneath available for the youngsters who walk by. A plethora of pies ready for purchase lay on shelves under a woman.

The first ever Farmer’s Market was held in 1996 when a “small group of farmers was recruited for Baton Rouge’s first farmers market by Chris Campany as part of his Master’s thesis under the direction of LSU Landscape Architecture.” This organization was known as BREADA and their mission can be found here.

Many college students find an interest in local cultures, so Baton Rouge native and LSU student Paige Browning said, “I think it’s a great representation of the south as a whole because everyone there was very passionate and friendly just like most people you’ll come across down here.”

Just when you think the market is coming to an end, there is a final turn into an entire indoor section cluttered with artwork and more sellers lined throughout the building.

Food becomes more eclectic ranging from dark chocolate balsamic vinegar to crepes.

LSU student Stacy Titone said the crepes were one of her favorite parts, “I really liked the crepes we ate. I had no idea you could eat one with basically a caprese salad inside.”

This event that creates a unified and organic atmosphere leaves the patron feeling a closer connection to the people of Baton Rouge and cities around us. It provides a healthy and unifying start to the weekend and the show must go on “rain or shine.”

Baton Rouge native Don Edgerton said, “It really exemplifies the importance of our agriculture and local culture that we take great pride in.”

IMG_3302

IMG_3306

IMG_3305

Somethin’ About that Louisiana Heat

Unique cuisine, never-ending parties, and warm welcomes are all aspects most visitors can agree they we were greeted with throughout their stay in south Louisiana.

Whether it was fifty years ago or just last week, there is something special about this humid swampland we call “The Boot”. Throughout the decades, Louisiana has seen some devastating transformations and tremendous triumph, but the warmth of the south offers hospitality for everyone and anyone no matter the generation.

Stacy Harvey, a Southwest Flight Attendant, attended Louisiana State University over 20 years ago. This was a time when Internet was essentially non-existent and racial tensions accompanied daily life.

Like many of her college peers, she traveled the long stretch of I-10 blasting “Life is a Highway” to the heart of New Orleans plenty of times throughout her two years at LSU.

She said, “Family and friends always wanted to visit because it was so different from where we lived in San Francisco. The music, culture, everything was so fascinating to them. It was so fascinating to me too.”

Harvey reimagined her college days with a smile and raved about her adventures in New Orleans with her friends.

She said, “At first we hung around the Quarter, but realized that was more for tourists, so we ended up at the Garden District or Uptown a lot of the time. Usually we drank too much every time.”

Another LSU alumni, Rob Bonin, who was a student 22 years ago, reminisced on his experience as a Tiger.

He said, “We did some of the touristy things like Bourbon Street, St. Charles area, but it was always so much fun because I was with all of my pledge brothers.”

Bonin traveled around the world as a child because of his father’s job, but he was used to the humidity and southern hospitality the South is known for because of his hometown in Houston. He was always interested in the culture and knew he wanted to participate in the fun. He pledged a fraternity and the rest is blurry history.

He said, “Most of my friends lived in the New Orleans Area, so there was always a family to welcome me with open arms each time we went down there.”

The liveliness of the Big Easy still holds true. Despite the amount of time that has passed, the warmth, both literally and figuratively, never seems to go away.

The aroma of beignets can still be sensed throughout the Quarter, streetcars follow the tracks along the prestigious street of St. Charles and the raunchy outfits found on Bourbon never seizes to distract the naïve tourist walking past.

College students and tourists alike are able to bask in the drunken glory of New Orleans on any given day.

Stacy said, “Attending LSU and experiencing the Louisiana culture has been the biggest impact on my life. I have nothing but fond memories.”

pic

Travel through the Big Easy: the Most Visited Attractions

It’s no secret that New Orleans is one of the most visited cities in the world because of its unique cuisine, historical landmarks and southern hospitality. But, have you ever given much thought to how many people actually come and visit each year?

As of 2014, domestic travelers spent $10.7 billion in Louisiana, which was up five percent from 2013. The tourism and hospitality industry also accounts for over 21,000 jobs. The mater strategic plan for this industry is to attract 13 million people and to add 33,000 jobs by 2018, New Orleans’ 300th anniversary.

New Orleans is a thriving metropolis that relies heavily on the dollars of its tourists. From the heart of the French Quarter to the hundreds of music festivals that are held there, the “Big Easy” attracts people of all ages and backgrounds to its vibrant and warm culture.

In 2014 New Orleans embraced 9.5 million visitors. Bourbon Street, alone, attracted 7.5 million visitors in 2015. This famous street is known for its quirky bars and rowdy crowd on any given night.

Not only is the nightlife an unforgettable experience, New Orleans is almost equivalent to taking a step back in time. Many hot spots tell a brief story of history such as the architecture in the French Quarter or the statues of well known war leaders (which will be taken down due to racist implications).il_214x170.914023458_c8d8

There are thousands of places to eat and sights to see, however National Geographic listed things to do in New Orleans for anyone looking to explore the most talked about features in the city:

Jackson Square:

            This is the foundation of Downtown New Orleans, located right in the center of the French Quarter that sees over 2 million visitors each year. It began as a French trading camp for practical purposes when the city was first founded, but now serves as a perfect picture setting for travelers from all over. Artists sell their work in the blocks surrounding it and street performers can be seen throughout the blocks nearby. It provides a perfect set up for people watching and shopping. A trip to New Orleans is not quite complete without checking out the Jackson Square/French Quarter.

Ogden Museum of Southern Art

            A respected art gallery for cultured enthusiasts is a short distance from the Quarter, showing off pieces and exhibits of all things southern. If you want to observe the art while socializing with a few drinks, the museum has after hours for adults, which includes live music. It combines two prominent culture aspects that fills New Orleans to completion and is a must-see.

City Park

The beautiful greenery attracts those who want to stroll and take in the intense summer heat. Just like any park, it provides walkways and fields to picnic in and sunbathe. The 1,300-acre family-friendly spot holds live music and includes activities for children such as the well-known amusement park, Storyland, which has been operating since 1906.

Audubon Zoo and Insectarium

This is an exceptional attraction for those intrigued by the creatures that walk among us. Nearly 900,000 visitors are seen each year to enjoy the hundreds of species and beautiful scenery. The zoo is one branch of the entire institution, as it includes an aquarium and insectarium which is North America’s largest museum dedicated to insects. The excitement will last all day for people of all ages.

Garden District

The image of these 1800-style mansions comes to many peoples’ minds when they think of New Orleans and this neighborhood might be to blame. The gorgeous streets of million-dollar homes create a neighborhood that was made more than just to live in, but discover. The famous street St. Charles flows through the center making these homes even more desirable. Anyone seeking authentic New Orleans living will get a lot out of exploring this heavenly area.

Harper Lee: Death of a Literary Genius

Legendary Pulitzer Prize winner for her novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Nelle Harper Lee, dies at the age of 89 in her quiet hometown of Monroeville, Alabama Saturday morning.

The beloved writer lived a quaint life within the realms of her small southern town. Lee developed an interest in writing and journalism when she was in high school and dedicated much of her time to her studies throughout her collegiate years.

The writer soon moved to New York City, which is where she began her masterpiece of “To Kill a Mockingbird”, a story that would soon change the lives of people worldwide in the midst of global racial conflict and aggression.

LSU senior Emily Guidroz and passionate fan of Lee’s work said, “I think what sets her apart from most is her shy attitude of the spotlight, she wasn’t in it for the fame or success. She said what she had to say and moved on.”

In one of the few interviews Lee had in her lifetime, she told the Associated Press, “Success has had a very bad effect on me.”

Despite her unwanted success, her book went to win the Best Novel of the Century in 1999 and has been taught in schools and universities throughout the world.

Guidroz said, “Her work has such an importance because of the valuable lessons she talks about. She discusses issues kids need to know about.”

The massive success ‘Mockingbird’ received caused readers to become impatient for something else. She never delivered any signals of another novel until Lee shocked the world once again for “Go Set a Watchman”, a story of the continuous lives of Atticus Finch and Scout among other ‘Mockingbird’ characters.

The appeals of these books begin with the direct aim toward a controversial subject from the perspective of a white southern woman among a commonly segregated region where women didn’t have much of a public voice.

LSU English Professor Matt Dischinger says, “It’s the balance between wide appeal and political edge that is, to me, both important and rare.”

However, Lee is much more than the success of her novelty writing skills. She was a mentor, a friend, a sister and an underlying foundation of how English and writing is taught to this day. Her ability to recognize a civil injustice speaks volumes of her character and feelings toward the civil adversity that was faced by many during the time of ‘Mockingbird’s’ release.

Guidroz said, “Her bravery to write about the flaws of society, yet romanticize it, without the fear of backlash is inspiring.”