Hosting the Feb. 24-26 Bassmaster Classic in Shreveport-Bossier City is just one of the events Louisiana has to crow about this month. Another is the season premiere Thursday at 9 p.m. EST/8 p.m. CST of Swamp People, the popular History channel show that, like the 2012 Bassmaster Classic, celebrates the Louisiana outdoors.
The reality show’s plot follows the colorful lives of alligator hunters in the Atchafalaya Basin (the site of many a Bassmaster tournament, including past Classics). At the same time, the show highlights the state’s natural resources and Cajun and Creole cultures to a national audience. That’s why Louisiana Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, whose job entails promoting tourism in Louisiana, traveled to New York City last week to take part in the History channel’s “reality” promotion for its highly rated reality show.
The network created a piece of Louisiana swamp in Manhattan’s Chelsea Market. The 5,600-square-foot “Swamp in the City” features 15-foot living cypress trees, 1,000 growing plants indigenous to Louisiana and live alligators and red-eared turtles.
As with the television show, the alligators were a star attraction, but people came to see the show’s human stars, including “King of Swamp” Troy Landry, Dardenne said. Visitors also were treated to free samples of Cajun and Creole dishes created by chef John Folse.
“It was a very popular place; visitors were lined up to see it,” said Dardenne after his first day there. “It’s an authentic view of a part of Louisiana that’s a significant part of our ecosystem, and to some extent, to our economy as well.”
Besides Dardenne’s participation, the state’s contributions to the exhibit included the band Sac au Lait, and artisans who demonstrated woodcarving, basket weaving, mud painting and how fish scales can be used to make jewelry. Louisiana also brought in a naturalist from Louisiana State Parks to answer visitors’ questions and explain what life is like in a swamp.
Louisiana also kicked off a contest to win an authentic five-day swamp experience. “Get Swamped in Louisiana” offers a trip for two that includes a hotel stay, meals at popular Cajun restaurants and admission to attractions. New York exhibit visitors were invited to enter the contest, and entries are now being accepted at LouisianaTravel.com.
Like Swamp People, Bassmaster Classic events in Louisiana have been contributors to the state’s tourism efforts, Dardenne said.
“It’s a major contributor,” he said of the Classic. “Our brand for Louisiana is ‘Louisiana: Pick Your Passion.’ We’re passionate about so many things, and at the top of that list are our food, our music and our recreational opportunities, not the least of which is hunting and fishing and, in particular, bass fishing. You’re not going to find better fishing anywhere in the United States of America, and arguably in the world, than in the state of Louisiana.”
The Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City will be the sixth Louisiana challenge for Classic competitors. The Classic was held on the Louisiana Delta in 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2011, and once before on the Red, in 2009.
Dardenne said he plans to be at the Classic on Feb. 26, the final day. He is scheduled to be on stage at Bossier City’s CenturyLink Center to welcome fans before the weigh-in begins.