Hemelt: ‘Roads, Roots and River’ publication near unveiling

Published 11:45 pm Friday, January 2, 2015

The River Parishes boast many deeply rooted communities with ties dating back centuries.

Walk a mile in St. John the Baptist, St. James or St. Charles Parishes, and you’ll quickly become connected to any number of countries, races and traditions that magically boil together to form a truly unique region in an already unique state.

It is with that fertile soil to grow upon that L’OBSERVATEUR staff members are launching “Roads, Roots and River: Celebrating Our Community.”

We are planning to publish the 72-page, all-color magazine late next month, highlighting the people and stories that make this region so noteworthy.

Although the special-edition magazine will be included in the Feb. 28 edition, we don’t anticipate many people completely going through the product in one sitting.

Therefore, it is being designed as a stand-alone product with a long shelf life.

L’OBSERVATEUR’s news department has commissioned six journalists to cultivate the long-form stories readers will enjoy in the special edition.

Concurrently, the newspaper’s sales team has been working for more than a month securing business sponsorships for what will be our largest and most in-depth product of the year.

Special thanks goes to Gem Drugs, United Rentals, Eagan Insurance, St. John Civic Center, N.O. Plantation Country and Quality Inn for already pledging their support to what will become our signature product.

Starting with this edition, L’OBSERVATEUR will run an announcement in each newspaper promoting the Feb. 28 release of “Roads, Roots and River: Celebrating Our Community,” while also saluting our advertising sponsors. As this is truly a community project, starting Wednesday (Jan. 7) L’OBSERVATEUR will introduce a River Parishes trivia game highlighting local facts about our region.

Readers will have a chance to view the question each Wednesday in the newspaper and return an entry form by the end of business the following Monday. Those who successfully answer the question will be entered into a contest, where one winner each week will receive a uniquely River Parishes prize as part of the countdown to “Roads, Roots and River: Celebrating Our Community.”

The contest will continue with weekly questions each Wednesday (Jan. 7 through Feb. 25) before the section publishes.

A special thank you also goes out to those story subjects that have sat down at length with L’OBSERVATEUR interviewers to share their stories.

One of the stories I’m preparing is a spotlight on the families of St. John the Baptist Parish deputies Jeremy Triche and Brandon Nielsen, who were viciously killed while on duty during a shooting in August 2012.

They left behind wives and children, but many in the community have turned their grief into action as numerous benefits and charitable organizations bearing the names of Jeremy Triche and Brandon Nielsen are in action today.

It’s truly a story of resiliency that I’ve been blessed to witness through conversations with those impacted the most.

Other stories include profiles of Lowell Narcisse Jr., Timmy Byrd, Gerald Keller and Courtney Andersen Boe.

Keller, a man of deep Reserve roots, is working tirelessly to see that the history of this St. John Parish mainstay community is not lost for younger generations.

Narcisse, one of the state’s top prep quarterbacks, just finished a record-setting sophomore football season at St. James High that included a trip to the playoffs — a far cry from just a few years ago when the Wildcats posted back-to-back winless seasons.

Boe has performed and excelled as a dancer, singer, actress and model on local and national stages and continues for a young generation what is this region’s long history of performance art.

Byrd, athletic director and basketball coach at Riverside Academy, has cultivated the state’s best basketball program, mentoring a sports dynasty in a region once thought of as only a football hotbed.

Their stories and so many more are snapshots into who we are and what makes this region so special.

We look forward to sharing those with you Feb. 28.

Stephen Hemelt is general manager and editor of L’OBSERVATEUR. He can be reached at 985-652-9545 or stephen.hemelt@lobservateur.com.