Sunday, February 5, 2012

'Swamp People' promotes Louisiana

Popular 'Swamp People' show to promote tourism

Published: Sunday, February 05, 2012, 7:15 AM
Jaquetta White, The Times-Picayune 
The Big Apple has been invaded by the Louisiana swamplands. Latching on to the popularity of the History Channel's "Swamp People" in an effort to turn interest in the television show into travel to Louisiana, the state Office of Tourism has joined with the cable network to create a miniature swamp habitat in New York this month.
05mytourism_1024.jpgLouisiana Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne, right, and Bruce Mitchell of 'Swamp People' watch second-graders in New York get up close with an adolescent American alligator, part of an authentic south Louisiana swamp exhibit in New York's Chelsea Market.
The exhibit, inside the Chelsea Market in New York, opened Thursday and will run through Feb. 12. It features Louisiana wildlife, artisans and tourism experts.
"We want to take advantage of the interest in this show to promote ecotourism to Louisiana," said Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, whose office oversees the state's tourism efforts. "We immediately knew this was something we should participate in."
The tourism office was asked to join the promotion by the "Swamp People" cast less than two weeks before the exhibit was set to launch, Dardenne said.
"Swamp People" follows a group of hunters in the Atchafalaya River Basin during the 30-day alligator hunting season. The show features a cast of competitive characters that includes a man who captures alligators with his bare hands. The television show premiered in March and went on to become the History Channel's most popular series.
The network had already planned to re-create a swamp in New York City to promote the second season, but reached out to the state for its expertise on local culture. The exhibit features a 12,100-square-foot swamp ecosystem with live alligators, turtles and vegetation native to Louisiana. Chef John Folse will be on hand to prepare Cajun and Creole food, and Henderson band Sac au Lait will provide music. The cast of "Swamp People" also will visit the exhibit.
In addition, the state suggested adding woodcarvers and a naturalist to discuss life in the swamp, Dardenne said.
He sees the exhibit as an opportunity to promote Louisiana tourism. Representatives from about 10 visitor bureaus around the state will also be on hand throughout the 10-day exhibit, answering questions about travel to Louisiana and administering a prize giveaway for a free swamp tour.
The extravagant display is a coup for the state tourism office, Dardenne said, because expense usually prohibits Louisiana from advertising itself in large cities like New York. In addition to attending the grand opening of the exhibit, Dardenne will travel to New York on Wednesday to appear on a series of nationally televised morning shows, where he will promote Thursday's premiere of "Swamp People" as well as the Louisiana bicentennial celebration and tourism.
"It would be exorbitant," Dardenne said of what it would cost to reach people nationwide to talk about those topics. "The coverage we're getting and the exposure we're getting for a relatively small amount of money, I don't know if it's calculable. We'll be getting a considerable amount of free media from this event."
The state is contributing up to $50,000 to the effort, with the History Channel providing the remainder. Dardenne did not know the full cost of the exhibit. The state portion is being drawn from the BP Event Fund, money given to the state by the oil giant following the 2010 oil spill and dedicated to promoting events in Louisiana.
"We think it's extremely well spent. It's a very wise investment for us," Dardenne said. "This is a place where a lot of New Yorkers work, but it's also a very popular tourist district."
Jaquetta White can be reached at or 504.826.3494.
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