On The Road With RL Reeves Jr: 2018 Gheens Bon Mange Festival

A big iron pot of cracklins at 2018 Gheens Bon Mange Festival

When Mr Bill died it didn’t take long for his family to bulldoze his old watering hole, Bill’s Place. Last year at Gheens Bon Mange the destruction of the only bar in town was a hot topic. This year tempers had settled, and folks were content to dance to oldies goldies, eat cracklins and drink cold tumblers of Rougaroux punch.

The same way they’ve been doing it for nearly 50 years.

Carlotta Toups, a previous queen of Gheens Bon Mange Festival

Gheens, Louisiana is beautiful. The motto of Lafourche Parish is “Feeding and Fueling America,” and with good reason. You’ll not find a parish in Acadiana where the food is better than New Orleans’ southwest neighbor. We sortie out to Bayou Lafourche a few times a year during festival season to soak in some Cajun hospitality and eat ourselves into oblivion.

The folks out that way could not be kinder.

2018 Gheens Bon Mange Festival

It’s Sunday morning and the Vacherie Gheens Community Center is near occupancy. A two piece band is knocking out Merle Haggard songs and everybody has a big plate of fried fish and a cold bottle of beer in front of them. A few folks have ventured onto the dance floor while the ladies in the kitchen are hustling out crockpots filled with gumbo, white beans and grillades.

It’s a good scene but where is the queen? Every year since the early 70s the Gheens Bon Mange Festival has selected the most comely young woman from the community and hoisted a crown upon her head to cheers from the townsfolk. Perhaps the tradition has come to a close?

2018 Gheens Bon Mange Festival

Time to get down to the heart of the matter. Time to eat. A 20 dollar bill will get you a big sack of cracklins, a fat grillades po boy, a side of white beans, potato salad, dirty rice, coconut cake, peanut butter gooey bar and two cold drinks. It’s enough food for four people.

I easily take down the entire affair.

I have a long afternoon of activities planned in New Orleans so it’s time to bid adieu to Gheens. I step outside the icebox-cold recreation center as an old timer fires up a Marlboro near the entrance.

2018 Bon Mange Festival in Gheens Louisiana

“Where can a body get a cold beer around here?”

“Dagnabbit, they tore Bill’s down and I’m still so mad about it I could ring somebody’s neck” he proclaims.

Gheens Louisiana

About RL Reeves Jr

I'm a writer living and working in New Orleans, Louisiana.
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