An enterprising couple brings Cancun to the bayou.
By Lisa Hanchey Wednesday, March 30, 2011
It’s the best non-advertised secret in Cajun Country. Right off I-10 at the Henderson exit lies Cajun Palms RV Resort, a sprawling full-service campground with three swimming pools (one with a swim-up bar), three beverage bars, two stocked ponds, an 18-hole putt-putt golf course, a huge conference center, convenience store, two video game rooms, video poker, a band/DJ stage and lots of palm trees (naturally). Guests traverse the 40-acre site on golf carts, with paths leading to the popular restaurant Crawfish Town USA for dining or takeout. When patrons have the envie to cook themselves, they can go right next door to Crawfish Town’s new Fresh Market, featuring seafood, specialty meats, area produce and adult beverages.
Owned by Stephanie and Lee Venable, a former USL (now University of Louisiana-Lafayette) football player, the park has had steady business since opening in 2008. Six and a half years ago, the couple, both avid campers, bought a 40-acre plat in Henderson one-half mile north of I-10 with the vision of building a campground there one day. They traveled all over the country gathering ideas for a first-class RV park. During their excursions, they discovered that many local campers enjoyed going to Alabama and Florida for beaches and tropical settings. So, they decided to create a tropical paradise closer to home. “We wanted to do something different, and to bring a tropical theme to south Louisiana,” Lee says.
The park opened on Jan. 16, 2008, with a sole billboard advertising the location. When the time came for renewal six months later, the Venables decided that the billboard was no longer necessary. Word-of-mouth from happy campers spread quickly, leading to waiting lists for holiday weekends.
Starting with 149 campsites, the campground has expanded to 325 RV parking spots with full hookups including 30- and 50-amp electrical service, water, sewer, digital cable and Wi-Fi Internet, 37 furnished and unfurnished cabins and 12 chalets (trailers). The recreational area currently includes two pools, a large hot tub, Lee Roys Tiki Bar, a second beverage bar, concession stand, public showers, an 18-hole putt-putt golf course, sand volleyball court, horseshoes area, playground and outdoor patio with a stage for live bands or DJs. “We get a lot of comments from customers that when they are here in the summertime laying out by the pool, they don’t feel like they’re in south Louisiana,” Lee says. “They feel like they’re in Cancun or on some island. That’s what we are trying to achieve.”
Behind this bustling center of activity is a 19,000-square-foot clubhouse with meeting rooms and a reception hall for company functions, parties and weddings. Also inside are two video arcade rooms, two laundry mats, a commercial kitchen, workout room and 56-seat state-of-the-art theater. The second floor houses a bar with flat-screen tvs and three video poker machines, opening onto a covered outdoor patio. Flanking the resort are two fishing ponds stocked with bream and bass.
Now under construction is Phase 2, consisting of additional camping sites, a new tiki bar, a second concession stand, giant kiddie pool with a variety of slides and a second check-in office.
The resort’s popularity has exceeded the Venables’ expectations. Four months after opening, the campground had booked weekends and repeat campers. “We were hoping that one day that it would get to this point,” Lee says. “But, it took off like a jet, and got a lot more popular than we thought it would at the time we opened.”
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.