Faces of fame, film and fable – that is the theme from last week’s familiarization tour, which hosted several motor coach tour operators from as far away as New York and Canada, but not before a little Mardi Gras party.
Operators were treated to a little Louisiana culture Mardi Gras style in The Courtyard, to famous king cake, a lot of Mardi Gras music and a small parade.
Members of the Krewe des Ambassadeurs and the Krewe of Akewa Minden gave tour operators a little
history of their existence and the process of participating in a Mardi Gras parade.
“Our main focus is family, friends and fun,” Renae Simmons, Krewe of Ambassadeurs, said.
Des Lester, of Eagle Custom Tours of Alaska and Sedona, Arizona, said she’s been to Louisiana and enjoyed the New Orleans flavor of her trip to Minden.
“We’ve been all over Louisiana,” she said, “and we came on this tour and experienced Mardi Gras. The other tours were more around plantations. Minden is a darling town, a lot of history.”
She commended the Webster Parish Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, saying they are one of the best she’s ever worked with.
“Everyone is super friendly so far,” she said.
Tourism director Lynn Dorsey said when her office was contacted by the Louisiana Office of Tourism in September, they had just printed the new Northwest Louisiana Fil Train brochure.
“We had presented the new brochure to the Louisiana Office of Tourism in August,” Dorsey said. “I am confident they developed the tour around the new film trail. This gave us the opportunity to promote the numerous movie locations and other great attractions in Webster Parish.”
She had a complete itinerary packaged for them to take back and sell to their customers, she said.
“The Mardi Gras party was a great idea to make sure they knew we had Mardi Gras parades and balls in Webster Parish,” Dorsey continued. “We thank the members of the Minden krewes for their help to make sure our guests had a great time.”
Following refreshments, tour operators walked across the street to the Dorcheat Historical Association Museum and were treated to stories from famous people right here in Webster Parish. Famous Pro Bass Fisherman Homer Humphreys and Broadway dancer Bill Cook were on hand to share their experiences.
Cook danced on Broadway in New York, Paris, France and all across Europe. He is a twice published author and came back to Webster Parish to retire. He is the manager of City Artworks in downtown Minden.
Humphreys talked to the operators about fishing on Lake Bistineau and regaled them with some stories of what it’s like to be a “famous” bass fisherman.
He said he was hired as a guide when the United States once hosted a Haitian prince, and for him to fish for 10 minutes, it took six hours to set it all up. Heavy security measures as well as camera crews and photographers on scene were a lot of work for 10 minutes of fishing, he said.
Operators spent the rest of the afternoon touring the museum under the guidance of Schelley Francis, curator. They saw several displays from Webster Parish, including the famous faces of Webster Parish, like Alan Bean, the fourth man to walk on the moon.
Other displays included the many movies shot in Webster Parish and historic district in downtown Minden.
Tour operators included: Elsa Lo of China Silk Tours in New York, Joe Lester of Eagle Custom Tours in Arizona, Jim Hurd of Gunther Charters of Hanover, Maryland, Christina and Andrew Knowles of Significant Living Travel of California, Gail Arndt and Edward Sturrup of Tour Trends Ltd. of Plymouth, Massachusetts and Daphne Pollock and Dean Smith from WestWorld Tours of Regina, Canada.
The tour also included Shreveport and Monroe/West Monroe. The National Tour Association Travel Exchange Familiarization Tour was hosted by the Webster Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Louisiana Office of Tourism.
The idea of these tours is to promote Webster Parish as a tourism destination. One of the ways this is done is through familiarization tours for motor coach companies which book tours all across the United States. Minden and Webster Parish have been toured by journalists from newspapers, magazines and bloggers and other tour operators.