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Travel Treasures departments
May/Jun 2010 Issue

Huey Long’s legacy lives on 75 years after his death

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the assassination of Huey Long, who lorded over Louisiana politics for a generation and whose legacy still lives on today.

Long grew up on a farm in Winnfield, La., one of the state’s poorest areas at the time and a stronghold for populism, a brand of politics he would embrace his entire life. A firebrand, Long thrilled at the chance to tackle the likes of corporate fat cats, political machines, the Ku Klux Klan and even the president.

The legacy of Long is a mixed bag. He almost singlehandedly pushed Louisiana into the modern era, paving roads, building bridges, providing free public education, building a new Capitol and more. But his thirst for power and heavy-handed politics made him a lot of enemies.

Having served as governor and U.S. Senator (at one point simultaneously), Long set his sights on the White House and prepared to take on Franklin Roosevelt in the 1936 election. But he was gunned down on Sept. 8, 1935, inside the Capitol building, allegedly by Dr. Carl Austin Weiss. Yet some still question whether it was a bodyguard who fired the fatal shot.

Retracing Long’s life should start where it all began, in Winnfield. The central Louisiana town welcomes visitors to the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame, which displays photos and memorabilia from various state politicians, including Long. Two other Louisiana governors also called Winnfield home: Earl Long (Huey’s brother) and O.K. Allen.

The museum contains more than 100,000 artifacts, including recordings of speeches by Huey and Earl Long. Located at 499 East Main St. in a restored railroad depot, the museum is open 9 a.m.–5 p.m. weekdays.

More of Huey Long’s legacy can be explored in a special exhibit–the Museum of Political History–in the Old State Capitol in Baton Rouge. The current Capitol in Baton Rouge where Long was assassinated also is open for tours, and visitors can see where Long was shot and visit his gravesite outside.

For more details about the Louisiana Political Museum, call (318) 628-5928 or click on www.lapoliticalmuseum.com. For details about the Museum of Political History, visit online at www.sos.louisiana.gov, or call (800) 488-2968.

hall of fame

Above: The Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame features hundreds of artifacts, including many relating to Huey Long. Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame photo

Below: A statue of Long can be found outside the state Capitol facing the building he so loved. Louisiana Office of Tourism photo

statue


 

Tupelo rolls out the red carpet for Elvis’ birthday party

The King of Rock ’n Roll still reigns in Tupelo, Miss., and this June an estimated 10,000 adoring Elvis fans will shake, rattle and roll to celebrate Elvis’ 75th birthday.

This summer, the childhood hometown of Elvis Presley will host the annual Tupelo Elvis Festival June 4–6, attracting thousands of Elvis fans and tribute artists to this northeast Mississippi community. Event organizers are expecting record crowds to attend this year’s event because of the milestone anniversary. 

Among the performers will be three past winners of the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist (UETA) Competition, including the reigning champ. Visitors may wonder if Elvis really died after seeing these entertainers, along with 40 other Elvis tribute artists who will be competing in the Tupelo Preliminary UETA Championship.

The festival will celebrate everything Elvis all weekend, starting with a theatrical production of “All Shook Up” on Thursday evening. Friday and Saturday are packed full of Elvis entertainment and competitions, including the “Running with the King” 5K race, a parade, an Elvis Look-A-Like Pet Parade, “Fling with the King” Disc Golf Tournament and a carnival. Also, a variety of other entertainers in addition to Elvis tribute artists will be featured on a separate outdoor stage.

Then on Sunday, an all-day gospel event will be held on the grounds of the Elvis Presley Birthplace, including a church service, pot-luck dinner and plenty of gospel singing. 

For more information, visit www.tupeloelvisfestival.com or call (662) 841-6598.

elvises

Dozens of Elvis tribute artists will converge on Tupelo for the event. Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association photo


 

St. Francisville remembers poignant pause in Civil War

The quaint riverside town of St. Francisville, La., will return to the past June 11–13 to celebrate The Day the War Stopped, commemorating a day during the Civil War when rival combatants put down their weapons for a few mournful moments.

In June 1863, the Union USS Albatross was off the shore of St. Francisville in a battle to control the Mississippi River. But on June 11, its captain, Cmdr. John E. Hart, unexpectedly shot himself, perhaps because of dementia induced by yellow fever.

Hart was a Mason, and aboard his ship were officers who were Masons who didn’t want a river burial. So under a white flag, a party rowed to St. Francisville, where they found fellow Masons who said it was their duty to provide a burial to a brother Mason. Hart was laid to rest on June 12 in Grace Episcopal Church’s cemetery, with Confederate and Union soldiers both paying respect. 

This rare moment will be recalled during the weekend of June 11–13, beginning Friday evening with graveside histories in Grace Church cemetery.

Saturday’s events include a parade, lunch at the Masonic Lodge, a concert of antebellum music and a re-enactment of Hart’s burial. Also, Oakley Plantation at Audubon State Historic Site will offer a Civil War encampment, costumed dancers and candlelight tours.

On Sunday, Rosedown Plantation State Historic Site will present a program on Civil War medical techniques and period burials. And Locust Grove State Historic Site will host a gravesite talk.

For more information, visit www.daythewarstopped.net, or call (800) 789-4221.

St. Francisville

Re-enactors will bring the moving story to life. Bonnie Marquette photo

Exhibit reveals the potent power of pins

When former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was expressing the United States’ position in foreign affairs with world leaders, she also expressed subtle messages with her jewelry, and some of those messages were about as subtle as a battleship.

During her diplomatic tenure, Albright was known for wearing pins that deliberately conveyed her views. In a position that demanded effective, nuanced and sometimes blunt communication, it was a non-linguistic language with its own expressive style.

That style is on display at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Ark., in an exhibition called “Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection.” The exhibition debuted in New York, but the Clinton Museum is an apt second stop because Albright served in Clinton’s administration, first as Ambassador to the United Nations and then as Secretary of State.

On display until June 1, the collection includes more than 200 pins that were chosen for their symbolic value. Among them is a golden snake, which she wore whenever dealing with issues concerning Iraq after the government-controlled Iraqi press called her an “unparalleled serpent.”

The museum is located at 1200 President Clinton Ave. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and students and $3 for children 6–17. For hours and details, visit www.clintonpresidentialcenter.org, or call (501) 374-4242.

pin

A snake brooch, circa 1860, that Albright wore after the Iraqi press called her a serpent. John Bigelow Taylor photo

Sizzling steaks fire up tasty Blossom Fest

With more than 5,000 steaks sizzling on the grill, this isn’t your average everyday barbecue.

But then again, there’s nothing average about the Magnolia Blossom Festival and World Championship Steak Cook-Off, held each May in Magnolia, Ark. This year’s event will feature more than a dozen activities over the course of two days, May 14–15, to appeal to every member of the family.

Before the festival begins, several activities will be held during the previous week, including a sporting clays shoot on Saturday, May 8, at Red T Farms, and the Miss Blossom Pageant on Monday, May 10.

Then the festival will kick off on Friday, May 14, with a craft show and sale from noon–10 p.m. There will be a food court on the downtown square, and a gospel concert will be held from 5–9 p.m. on an outdoor stage.

Saturday begins with a parade through downtown to Magnolia Square, where the cook-off will be held. Other events will include an antique car show, motorcycle show, dog fun show, a 5K race and the Sidewalk Art Show, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and was the predecessor to the Magnolia Blossom Festival.

Magnolia is located in southwest Arkansas. For more details, call (870) 234-4352, or visit www.blossomfestival.org.


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