On June 29, half a dozen tour buses from the Vans Warped Tour rolled into Lake Charles and unloaded 400 of its crew and band members at the Burton Coliseum. The rag tag army sported mohawks and eyeliner, as musical groups like NOFX, The Bouncing Souls and Anti-Flag spent a day off from the tour braving abundant mosquitoes and blazing heat at 20 different sites throughout Cameron Parish.
"They had tattoos everywhere, piercings, spiked hair," Wolfe says, "but they were the nicest people we've ever seen. The last thing you think about is rock bands coming down here to clean up. They were hard workers. They got out there, and they worked as a team. There were no conflicts at all from anybody. We had people passing by on the road hollering out the window, 'Thank you!'"
Vans Warped Tour producer Kevin Lyman hatched the plan last year after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. "I just got this idea," he says, "to route [the tour] through, take a day off between Atlanta and Houston and see if we can help. Unfortunately, the gut feeling in my stomach was that these people were still going to need a lot of help down there. I didn't realize how much they would need."
The Vans Warped Tour features hard-rockin', punk-infused music from groups like Helmet, The Casualties and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and includes side attractions like skateboarding exhibitions aimed at teenagers. The tour has hit the road every summer since 1995. In 60 days, it sets up camp in 50 different cities. "It's the longest running traveling music festival in North America," Lyman says. The tour employs 800 people and has already sold 600,000 tickets this year alone.
"We had a very successful year last year as a tour," Lyman says. In the aftermath of both hurricanes, the Warped Tour cut a check to Habitat for Humanity for $300,000. Lyman also formed an organization called Unite the United and raised an additional $45,000 by selling merchandise through online auctions at www.unitetheunited.com. He plans to develop the foundation and strategy for future disaster relief efforts.
Lyman tried to take his group's efforts even a step further but ran into resistance from Habitat for Humanity. "The Habitat people really couldn't figure out how to use us," he says, "and I was like, 'That's not a good enough answer for me.' They were kind of giving me the runaround on this volunteer thing." Online, Lyman found the Volunteer Center of Southwest Louisiana in Lake Charles.
Executive Director Beverly McCormick put the group in contact with the Cameron Council on Aging, where Wolfe works as a data processor. "Imagine if back in the '60s if Elvis Presley, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones came to volunteer with all their band members and their support team," McCormick says. "I think there was a lot of apprehension at first about the group of young people coming in, being band members and artists with these different groups, with tattoos and piercings in their ears or nose or others parts of their body. But the people in Cameron fell in love with them when they saw how hard they worked. They were very polite, hard working and kind. One lady told me, 'These boys are nice. They're really, really good boys.'"
McCormick says throughout Cameron Parish, in towns like Hackberry, Johnson Bayou, Grand Chenier, Creole, Cameron and Grand Lake, the Warped volunteers ' including carpenters, drivers, cooks, musicians, electricians and skateboarders ' removed 10 tons of debris.
Lyman says it wasn't hard choosing to help out in Cameron as opposed to New Orleans, which tends to garner more of the media spotlight. "To be 100 percent honest," he says, "the people [of Cameron Parish] seemed the most excited about having us come. Right away they said, 'You know what, we'll make it work.' They didn't ask us what color our hair was, what our political or religious views were. They just said, 'we can use the help.'"
Lyman even brought his wife and two daughters to help out. "The almost universal reaction from our crew was, 'Wow, it's been almost a year, and these people are still trying to clean their lots,'" he says. "I had a couple of my guys come up to me afterwards and say that they thought the whole thing was a little weird, that the lots could have been cleared with a bulldozer. I said, 'That's the thing. Our government should have had a bulldozer go and clear that land for them. But they haven't, so we did it for them.' If they had gotten these people some bulldozers and some help, they would get themselves back on their feet. You could tell they were hard working people; they're not used to having anything handed to them."
Wolfe, a lifelong Cameron resident, says it's been hard to find helping hands. Before Rita, she had lived her entire life in the house built by her father. "You could sit on my front porch and listen to the waves hit the beach," she says. "It was peaceful. We have nothing but house blocks left. It took my dad 24 years to build that house, and it was wiped away overnight. It's hard." Wolfe now lives in a 250-square-foot trailer behind her uncle's house in Grand Lake. "It's taking some adjusting to get used to," she adds.
Wolfe's grateful for the generosity shown by the members of the Warped Tour. "They took time out of their schedule to help us out," she says. "We've had the door slammed in our faces so many times by different agencies and governmental bodies. There's a bunch of people that are getting denied, and it's not their fault. They're not getting help like they need to."
The experience was just as beneficial for Lyman and his crew. "A lot of people came up to me and said it was really enlightening. You can't make sense of it watching it on TV. If 10 people that worked for me, if that actually changed something in their life, then that's great."
And although it was only a day-long event, volunteers also got a genuine taste of south Louisiana hospitality. Members of the tour barbecued with Cameron residents, and some imbibed local moonshine. "What you find out is that there's not much difference in people," Lyman says. "A woman that was in her 80s said, 'No one could have told me that in my life something would change at this point, but my views of these people, with the piercings and the tattoos, has always been bad, and now I have a great opinion of them.' That's pretty cool."
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, April 18, 2014:
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.