EPCOT provides great exposure for Iberville tourism

Tryve Brackin
Grosse Tete resident Gene Seneca spent a week at Disney World’s EPCOT as a Cajun Storyteller. He brought several items with him to help out his presentations. Sissy Irwin of the Iberville Parish Council’s Tourism Bureau also spent a week at EPCOT as a hostess.

When Gene Seneca and Sissy Irwin returned from Orlando, Fla. They made a point to let the POST SOUTH know what a great event it was and how important it was to international exposure for Iberville Parish tourism.

“I had a ball working and doing what tourist stuff I could do in my limited free time. You cannot imagine how many people I spoke to about our parish and what we had to offer to the country and the world. Our culture here is so very unique,” commented Irwin, who works for the Iberville Parish Council’s Tourism Center in Plaquemine.

Sissy worked as a greeter/hostess for a week at the Louisiana exhibit of the Disney World EPCOT Center’s annual International Wine/Food Festival.

While Sissy made her way to Orlando first, Gene followed and spent a week as a Storyteller in Angeline’s Acadian Cottage. The cottage was located inside the wrought iron fenced Louisiana exhibit adjacent to the “River Queen” riverboat stage where numerous state musicians and bands have been playing.

Gene told stories about the Atchafalaya Basin and the now gone Bayou Beau Chene community where his dad grew up. Seneca runs a kayak rental/tours business in Grosse Tete, adjacent to the basin area, as well as makes and sells old cypress birdhouses and other hand-carved items. He does photography in the basin and has worked with a number of media types in filming and/or photo journalistic stories on the swamp.

“I know we got together to do a feature on my trip to EPCOT before I went, but once I got back I was swamped by parish officials about how important our role in the exhibit was to our area. So I brought you some photos I took of the exhibit. Everyone wants us to let the community know we showed off the state in wonder light to visitors to Disney World, which means national and international tourists. People that came to the exhibit were thrilled and impressed with what we had to offer them,” commented Seneca.

Gene said he told numerous stories about the basin and the parish as well as growing up in South Louisiana.

“People were very interested in everything, the culture, our arts and cooking styles, the food, and the environment and beauty of the basin. I enjoyed talking to everyone,” noted Seneca.

I think the photos show the fun we had putting on our show to people.

Amazingly, two other workers at the exhibit, that were there when Gene was storytelling, are acquaintances. Chef Scott Varnado put on a cooking exhibit. He is the owner of Varnado’s Restaurant at the Bluffs in St. Francisville, and is the son-in-law of good friend Brad Currier, a long time former resident of Plaquemine who now lives in New Roads.  Kenny Acosta and his House Rockers played a gig on the River Queen stage. Kenny is a former adult softball league teammate of this reporter from back in the late 1970s.

Several state officials visited the exhibit while Gene was there. He took several snapshots of La. Lt. Governor Mitch Landreau as he toured the exhibit.

“Mitch Landreau was very, very proud of what we were doing to promote the state and Iberville,” said Seneca.

Henry Watson shows off Louisiana artwork at Disney World’s EPCOT special state wine and food festival area recently.