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A STROLL DOWN FRONT STREET …

by Doug Ireland

Snapshots from a late spring stroll around the picturesque downtown Natchitoches Rue Beauport Riverfront ….

…. There are boards on windows at the south end of Front Street, scars from an early morning fire April 30. It ravaged Mayeaux’s, one of the city’s most revered restaurants, and the All Tangled Up beauty salon next door. Only heroic work by the Natchitoches Fire Department saved the entire block from destruction. The block, erected in 1903, includes two popular dress shops, the iconic, Hello Dolly, and relative newcomer, Simply Chic Boutique, along with the mainstay Dickens and Company gift store, Bathhouse Soapery, and the City Barber Shop – all impacted with catastrophic smoke damage. Weathering the virus shutdown was tough enough before the blaze.

…. After weeks of vacant parking slots on the trademark bricks above Cane River Lake, cars finally lined both sides of Front Street with the advent of sidewalk dining beginning May 1. The downtown live music scene kicked back into gear with mainstays including Rick Pierce, Kelli and Mark Roberts, Ben Rushing as the frontman for the Armadillo Jackal Band, all sharp as ever after the unscheduled break. Getting a soundtrack back on the bricks has been delightful.

…. That’s Kolleen Brown jogging on the riverfront. Don’t know the name? She and her colleagues on the NSU sports medicine staff are already unsung heroes for Demon Athletics, as they contemplate how to effectively navigate the foggy path to student-athletes and staff being together on campus. Brown is also that staff’s point person on mental health, always a key concern for college students, especially so these days. She is producing plenty of beneficial social media content on the @NSUDemons Twitter account all of us can appreciate. That will continue as the work of tending to the physical condition of the competitors’ training on campus ramps up in the coming weeks – and the task of monitoring and maintaining their health is infinitely more vital than ever.

…. The phone rings and it’s Lyn Rollins, calling from his new home, Auburn, AL, where his son and daughter-in-law live. Lyn and Debbie relocated from Pineville over the winter/early spring, with him planning to continue his busy Bayou State-based sports broadcasting. Now, who knows? Will there even be games to broadcast? Will it be prudent for a healthy 69-year-old to repeatedly gather in different venues with different people? His energy level is high. Over the past 10-15 years, his professional profile has soared, including his 2017 induction into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame as a winner of the Louisiana Sports Writers Association’s Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism. “I feel like I’ve finally reached the summit at Mt. Everest, and now there’s an earthquake,” he said.

…. While working on a Lasyone’s meat pie on the riverbank, didn’t immediately recognize Matthew Yerby. Shouldn’t have been surprised to run into the former Demon baseball outfielder turned artist, actor and filmmaker. The native of Winnfield just spent three months completing his “greatest artistic challenge thus far,” a 3,722-square foot mural in Mansfield, commissioned by the city, showcasing dozens of DeSoto Parish sports heroes. They include Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame members Vida Blue, Lin Gamble, Albert Lewis and Orlando Wooldridge, and NSU sports greats Kenneth DeWitt, Floyd Turner, Wayne Waggoner and Zeek Woodley. Next? He’s welcoming producers from Hollywood into Natchitoches, preparing to soon begin filming a feature film Yerby’s written and developed. Two actors you’ve heard of, Dean Cain (“Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”) and Christopher McDonald (“Shooter” in Adam Sandler’s golf classic “Happy Gilmore”), are “attached to the film,” in Hollywoodspeak.

…. Around the Roque House, pausing to savor the placid beauty of Beau Jardin, heading up the staircase to the traffic circle, right in front of the re-opened Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum. Just $6, tops, to get into a world class museum, albeit one that will be less star-studded than normal at the end of June. The annual LSHOF Induction Celebration was slated June 25-28, but has shifted to Dec. 15-17 in hopes of showcasing the City of Lights at its finest, and dodging coronavirus concerns, to honor the Class of 2020. Visit LaSportsHall.com for info, and meanwhile, come visit Natchitoches soon.

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