October 28, 2009

Sugar Day at Kent House

The second Saturday in November brings Sugar Day to Kent Plantation House once again. This year’s festival, November 14th from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., promises to be filled with food, traditional crafts, music, and fun for all ages with the scent of cooking syrup filling the air. Admission to the grounds for the day will cost $3.00 per person and children six and under will be free.

New to the festival this year will be the poster competition. Area artists were invited to design the first commemorative poster for the 16th annual festival. The winning poster should reflect the image of the Sugar Day Festival. A commission of $300.00 will be awarded to the winning artist. The winner will be announced on Sugar Day. All entries will be on display in the Exhibit Room through the month of November.

Live music will be featured throughout the day. Headlining the musical entertainment will be Hadley J. Castille and the Sharecropper Cajun Band. Castille is a veteran Cajun fiddler who has been both an ambassador for Cajun music around the world and a strong supporter of efforts in South Louisiana to preserve the Cajun language and culture. He is the recipient of numerous musical awards. Castille, his son Blake and his granddaughter Sara Jayde Williams will perform at 10:00 a.m. and again at 2:00 p.m. D. C. Sills, local musician/songwriter and other musicians will also be performing during the daylong festival.

Craft demonstrations from throughout Louisiana will include basket making, woodworking, duck carving, blacksmithing, spinning, weaving, quilting, cornhusk crafts, and flint napping. Some of the demonstrators will be selling their crafts and the Kent House Gift Shop will be open featuring historic and regional books, cards, toys, syrup, jams and jellies, and a variety of other items. Additionally, costumed docents will be churning butter, making soap and candles, and cooking in the open-hearth kitchen.

Special children’s activities, some traditional and some new, will be offered throughout the day. Tours of the House will be offered free of charge but admission tickets will be necessary. Additionally, visitors will be able to choose from among tamales, jambalaya, gumbo, meat and crawfish pies and hot dogs. Desserts include funnel cakes and delicious homemade cakes and cookies.

To condense the long open-kettle sugar making process, the demonstration at Kent House begins with cane juice already reduced to syrup. Cane syrup from David Stewart of Alma Plantation in Lakeland, Louisiana will fill ‘la batterie’, the fourth and smallest of the traditional kettles in which the sugar cooking was finished. Volunteers will spend the day minding the fire and stirring the syrup. This year, local celebrities and dignitaries will help stir with long handled paddles while standing on top of the mill.

Commercial sugar making in Louisiana dates officially to 1795. Though primarily a cotton plantation in its heyday, Kent Plantation grew and processed some sugarcane for its own use. The re-creation of today’s 1840s-style open kettle sugar mill at Kent House dates back to 1994. A ten-year project, the Kent House sugar mill began with the 1982 donation of sugar kettles from Augusta Plantation by descendants of Dr. William Haas, and a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Franklin H. Mikell.

Kent Plantation House, the oldest standing structure in Central Louisiana, dates back almost as far as commercial sugar production in Louisiana. Its mission as a historic site and museum is to interpret the history of Central Louisiana between 1795 and 1855.

For more information about Kent Plantation House Sugar Day 2009, call 318-487-5998.