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."
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
The former star of Saturday Night Live throws in his 2 cents on the Big Oil lawsuit.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Monday, March 10, 2014:
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.
A federal appeals panel ruled Monday that businesses don't have to prove that they were directly harmed by BP's 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil spill to collect settlement payments.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has closed Interstate 10 from I-49 in Lafayette to Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge.