The parish offers proximity to large cities but also enjoys a slower pace, gorgeous outdoor settings and a thriving community life.
J. Sterling Snowdy is a man who wears two hats. Professionally, he’s a district court judge in St. John the Baptist Parish. But after-hours and weekends, you may well find him in the orchestra pit, conducting the score of a Broadway musical – a combination that reflects his community’s pride, tradition and quality of life that makes it a great place to live, work and raise a family.
Nestled between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, St. John’s, predictably, enjoys access to the bright lights and attractions of big city life. But its verdant farmlands, rural Mississippi River culture and lower cost of living mean life in the parish’s unique small communities – Lucy, Edgard, Wallace, LaPlace, Reserve, Lions, Garyville and Mount Airy – reflects the slower pace and friendly style only close-knit suburbs can give.
Arts and Culture Flourish
As board president of the St. John Theatre, Snowdy extolls the advantages of life in a small community. He has followed in the footsteps of his father, Jack S. Snowdy, the first managing director of the arts center, launched in 1974. Now, it’s his turn to help nurture and grow the hub of the community’s arts and cultural scene, which benefits from proximity to New Orleans, but flourishes on its own.
“We’re trying to fill the void for arts education and participation for the River Parishes, and give people the opportunity to enjoy and participate in many aspects of the arts,â€ says Snowdy, a native of the area.
A renovated 1931 former movie house, the theater sponsors arts education initiatives such as its annual celebration of Black History Month, and produces its own annual production of a musical – Hairspray was the performance in summer 2017 – which involves scores of volunteer actors, crew and musicians who come from miles around to help stage the show. The venue, owned by the parish, is also available for rent for special events and productions, from receptions to pageants, and enjoys a busy season in the late winter and spring.
“We’re also very proud that our three local high schools use the theater to produce their spring shows,â€ Snowdy says. “We give them a chance to work in a fully rigged theater, with a pit, lighting, sound and a curtain. They enjoy it and get a lot out of it.”
The theater highlights a growing arts and entertainment scene in the parish, which also enjoys live music performances and more. But king of all local festivities is the annual Andouille Festival, always worth mentioning in the parish, it’s a tribute to St. John’s status as the “Andouille Capital of the World.”
For three days in mid-October, 20,000 people flock to LaPlace to enjoy limitless iterations of the famed spicy sausage, as well as other local culinary favorites, music and rides. The festival, a highlight of the local calendar, has been rocking since 1972.
The festival’s emphasis on cuisine says something about how local people feel about food– all kinds of food. A sampling of the area’s most popular restaurants includes Frenier Landing, LaPlace Frostop, Petra Restaurant, Connie’s Grill, ZoraChristina Catering, but the entire list is impressive and offers something good to eat for any palate.
Out and About
Year-round, residents and visitors take advantage of the area’s exquisite natural beauty and attractions, from exploring swamp lands to visiting the parish’s three historical antebellum plantations.
The parish operates 11 public parks throughout the communities, and carries on a busy schedule of youth sports activities, recreational activities and camps, including The New Orleans Saints/Gatorade Junior Training Camp for aspiring footballers. Residents also make use of parish-operated lake and canal boat launches and fishing piers.
In 2016 the parish completed $3.2 million in park improvements, part of its 2013 master parks plan. Improvements included two spray parks, a dog park, new play sets, gazebos, fitness stations, restroom facilities, benches, concession stands, parking lot improvements and other aesthetic upgrades.