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Lafayette: Anchor’s foot lands in his mouth; how did he miss all this?

Megan Wyatt, The Advertiser, May 29, 2014


Sales associate Christi Hess places NCAA Regional baseball t-shirts onto hangers at the Ragin’ Cajuns’ Red Zone in Lafayette, LA, Thursday, May 29, 2014. Paul Kieu, The Advertiser(Photo: Paul Kieu, The Advertiser, AP)

It’s having a boudin-and-beer breakfast at Lake Martin as the sun burns through the foggy swamp.

It’s listening to a French table discussion between the young and old.

It’s that swept-away joy that is dancing a two-step with a stranger to the music of Cedric Watson at the Blue Moon Saloon.

It’s knowing that no matter how great something sounds in a travel brochure, many of the things that are quintessentially Lafayette must be experienced to be understood.

That’s the local rally cry that has come from an offhanded comment made by ESPN anchor Jonathan Coachman last weekend about there not being a whole lot to do in Lafayette.

Click here for ESPN anchor Jonathan Coachman’s interview with local radio station 97.3 The Dawg to explain what he meant when he said there was little to do in Lafayette. Interview courtesy of 97.3 The Dawg.

Coachman defended himself after the show on Twitter, saying that he has visited Lafayette at least 15 times.

He also did an interview this week with local radio station 97.3 The Dawg, where he said his comment was meant to be taken from a sports perspective.

"All I was insinuating is that (the Ragin’ Cajuns) have a lot of support here because there’s not a lot of (professional) sports in Lafayette," Coachman said. "That’s all I was saying. It had nothing to do with music or festivals or food or anything of that nature."

Coachman told The Dawg that there must be more ESPN viewers per capita in Lafayette than anywhere else in America because he’s never received as much criticism before.

"And what I have received from the lovely people from Louisiana is ‘How dare you say anything about our town? Why don’t you come? We’ll show you around,’" Coachman said with a laugh.

Just where would we take Coachman if the opportunity presented itself?

"With so many things to do how can I narrow it down?" asks Lafayette native Travis Conques.

On Conques’ list is an early breakfast, a paddle at Lake Martin to meet the bullfrogs, coffee and a plate lunch in downtown Lafayette, a trip to the Acadiana Center for the Arts, a walk through the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus, a stroll in Girard Park and a history lesson at the Pinhook bridge, which was burned down during the Civil War to keep Union troops from advancing into Lafayette.

Conques loves Lafayette so much that he creates bicycles for Hub City Cycles with area designs that include the Acadiana flag, Evangeline Maid Bread, Community Coffee and Borden’s Milk.

"Lafayette is a jewel in and of itself," Conques says. "We want recognition, but at the same time, I don’t want people to know we have this hotness because it’s perfect. We’ve built it all up ourselves, and it would be a shame for that to spoil."

Lafayette native Karren Hays watched ESPN over the weekend when Coachman made his now infamous comment about Lafayette. She followed the conversation that followed on Twitter.

"If you can’t find something fun to do here, you must be staying in your hotel," says Hays.

If Hays could create an itinerary for Coachman in Lafayette, the day would begin and end with delicious food. She would also be sure he walked through the university’s campus, attended a Ragin’ Cajuns sporting event and took a swamp tour to experience the real-life beauty of our area that can’t be portrayed in the movies.

"I would bring him some place with a lot of people," Hays says. "So he could be exposed to the culture and genuineness of people down here."

Lafayette native Jillian Johnson co-owns Parish Ink and Red Arrow Workshop, boutique shops that sell items full of hometown spirit.

Shop items include T-shirts with the Acadiana flag and local phrases such as "I make my own roux" and "Cher Bébé."

"Anybody who’s ever been here and who has any kind of thirst for anything culture-wise will find that this is a place that really has no bounds," Johnson says. "It’s uniquely us. It’s 100 percent us. If you don’t like what our culture is, that’s one thing. But to say that it doesn’t exist is absurd."

Like Hays and Conques, Johnson would take Coachman to Lake Martin. She would also treat him to breakfast at the Rusted Rooster, lunch at Johnson’s Boucanière and dinner at Social Southern Table and Bar.

Her itinerary includes daytime tours at Vermilionville and Avery Island.

Ben Berthelot, president and CEO of the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission, just smiled when he learned of Coachman’s comment about the city.

"I knew that he was about to get lit up by our people," Berthelot said. "When people are so proud of an area — of the food and culture and all that we have to offer here — when you say something about that, the people are going to respond."

As a Lafayette native and somebody who earns his living promoting all there is to do in the area, Berthelot knows that Acadiana is far from lacking in fun.

Really, there’s no amount of convincing any of us can do. We can tout our restaurants, music, museums, theaters, outdoor activities, night life and family-friendly festivals all we want.

At the end of the day, it’s about striking up a conversation with the regulars at Gary’s Grocery or Dwyer’s Café.

It’s about experiencing the happy, carefree culture that is neither European nor American, that is Louisiana but not New Orleans.

It’s about learning what it means to "pass a good time," and it’s something that must be experienced to be understood.