The lines circled the perimeter of the Pavilion ballroom at Cypress Bayou Casino Hotel as multiple stations served the packed room for the 10th annual Senior Citizen Educational Seminar. Mature adults from Iberia, St. Mary and St. Martin — some coming from surrounding parishes and communities such as Houma and Baton Rouge — enjoyed a southern meal of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, green bean casserole and two seafood dishes courtesy of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion Board and Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser. Presented by the 16th Judicial District Attorney’s office, Bofill Duhé said before he became DA, the tradition had started.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that the largest chapter of AARP is here in St. Mary Parish,” Duhé said. “I’ve been doing it since 2015. It was started by Phil Haney. We try to bring different aspects of what is available for seniors each year. We’ve had Attorney General Jeff Landry talking about scams and common crimes against elderly.”
This year Nungesser brought the message he travels the nation to promote and challenged Louisiana locals to stay in in the state for stay-cations, explore a part of the culture they’ve never been before. Nungesser sited several examples of how minor exposure, word of mouth and visitation by friends and family members within the state caused a ripple effect.
Food being one of the fulfilling components of the culture, during his talk Nungesser explained how his focus of providing funding to events through donations of seafood locally harvested brought an extension to the contributions from BP. Shrimp fried golden brown and fresh fish with a tasty sauce were served during the luncheon.
After showing three marketing videos used around the nation to attract visitors to Louisiana, Nungesser explained that the campaign has increased tourism to the state and as a result brought revenue totaling more than $1 billion dollars, or the equivalent of $1,000 tax savings per family across the state. Financial benefits from within and outside the state are not the only asset to travel. The small town focus to the tourism agenda invites locals to seek easy access to entertainment.
“Anytime you can spend time with seniors that have done so much for our state and our country — we don’t appreciate them enough,” Nungesser said. “I’m going to be back in the legislature this year with that scratch off where all the money goes to our seniors because I can see a day when our seniors want for nothing. Other states have done it and our legislatures need to support it.”
Duhé thanked Loretta and Shirley from his staff who helped to bring the event to a successful conclusion. He introduced his mother, Dawn Hebert, and thanked his wife Lisa.
“One of the things that has proven to give seniors longevity and benefits in their lives is being active, not just sitting at home,” Duhé said. “We’re very fortunate to have Cypress Bayou donate all of this for free, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to do it. It would be impossible.”
“We had a great event Monday. We estimate that we served between 900 to 1,000 of our community elders. The food was delicious and our management team enjoyed lending a hand to help serve,” said Richard A. Picard III, director of public relations and advertising. “The Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana and Cypress Bayou Casino Hotel have supported and held the event for 10 years. We would like to extend our gratitude to the event organizers, the 16th Judicial District Attorney, Bo Duhé, and the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana for their continued support of the event.”
Cypress Bayou, and local sponsors, provided a luxurious gift basket and gift certificates to its outlets in various amounts including $150 to Mr. Lester’s Steakhouse. Sitting at the head table were regional organizers that helped coordinate seniors from throughout the Teche Area. Representing St. Mary Parish Council on Aging was Beverly Domengeaux, Carol Whipp with Iberia Council on Aging and Shanese L. Lewis with St. Martin Parish Council on Aging. Also part of the team were the St. Mary chapter of AARP and St. Mary Parish Community Action Agency for Franklin and Morgan City.
Vendors with organizations benefiting seniors were available in the lobby to answer questions and the Iberia Veterans Honor Guard presented the flag for the opening ceremony. To cap off the event, musical entertainment was provided by someone who had not left the building — yes, Elvis was in the house — at least an excellent impersonator.