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The People In My Town


And so, the festival is over. We ate like Cajun kings last night — if you’re ever in Louisiana and want to eat like we did, you have to visit the legendary Hot Tails, in New Roads. Cody and Samantha Carroll and their team really made us all proud, and are terrific ambassadors for Louisiana cooking. Everywhere I turned, people were raving about the food, on both nights. From what I hear, the fried catfish was the favorite from last night (“I don’t know when I last had catfish that good,” someone told me this morning). I didn’t get any catfish, but I had roast pork, and it was spicy and delicious. Look at this:


I ran into Bernie, from this blog, in line:



I’ve heard nothing but good things from people about the festival. It was so humbling to meet so many of you readers of this blog, many of whom journeyed from a long, long way to be here. One visitor said, “People in this town are so nice, and it seems to me that they really mean it.” Yep, they do.

I have to say how proud I am of my friends and neighbors who put this festival on. I’ve never been part of producing anything like this, and I was shocked by how much work and coordination goes into creating a festival as simple as our little event was. A lot of people saw me and my pal and co-organizer James Fox-Smith this weekend, because we were on stage a couple of times. But most people did not see the platoon of  co-organizers and volunteers who did the behind-the-scenes work. They did an incredible job, just incredible. I’m afraid I’m going to inadvertently leave somebody out, but if you enjoyed yourself at the Walker Percy Weekend, you can also thank organizers Nancy Vinci, Janice Wynn, Miles Higgins, Willia Parkerson, Sylvia Leake, Kati Williamson, Betsy Levasseur, Norman Ferachi, Julie Dreher, Ashley Fox-Smith, Carly Whatley, Lauren Field,  and even more volunteers, local merchants, and others. Everybody did it out of love of Walker Percy and to do something nice for the town and our guests. And don’t forget that all the panelists came on their own dime, all because of their respect and affection for Percy.

This truly was a community effort. All the kind words festivalgoers said this weekend about the event and our town made me grateful to be a part of this place and one of its people. So many people said they’d be back if we did it again. Next year in Feliciana? Maybe so. This afternoon, though, I think all of us really just want to take a long nap.

Thank you all!

UPDATE: This letter just arrived in my e-mail box:

I wanted to meet you this weekend but you have many friends who want to talk to you as well and so I never took a chance to interrupt.

But I did want to tell you how delightful this weekend has been. Every event was . well-planned, well-run, and so dang enjoyable. I am very impressed with the logistics of everything–especially given this is the first festival. I wasn’t sure about the bourbon tour, given that I don’t appreciate bourbon as it should be,  but it turned out to be one of may favorite events. If you just come to town and drive along Royal Street, you wish you could enjoy it more by walking the street or even going into some of the houses or sitting on the porch talking. That bourbon walk was the embodiment of a longing fulfilled.

I have followed your writing from the time I discovered National Review Online (I think very near to the time it was launched) until I read the The Little Way. I have noticed your peripatetic search for a place to call home. I identified with your decision to settle in St. Francisville because I have always chosen the friendship of home over the call of the new and the unknown. But I wondered if you would truly be happy back in a small town once the glow of reunion and the bonds of . shared grief dissipated. Would you find kindred spirits there. After this weekend, I can be assured that you indeed have.  Well done, Rod, and well lived.

Man, that just makes me feel great. Thank you. I’m sorry we didn’t have a chance to meet, but let’s make sure we do next year.

I want to say as well how much it meant to me and to my mom and dad that so many of you had kind words to say about Ruthie. I arranged for some visitors to spend time on my front porch with my parents. Mam and Paw loved it, and as always, drew such comfort in their grief from learning how much Ruthie’s story means to strangers, now friends.


about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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