CULTURE & RECREATION

Community History:

The history of the area offers a true “Who’s Who of Americana.” Among the legendary characters who passed through are Zebulon Pike, Jean Lafitte, Jim and Resin Bowie, Sam Houston, James Audubon, Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, Jefferson Davis, George Custer, Leonidas Polk, Dwight Eisenhower, Omar Bradley, and George Patton. The parish’s western boundary, along the Sabine River, was the site of military action during the Civil War. Confederate soldiers erected an artillery site to guard against Union movements along the Nolan Trace. These earthworks, known as the Burr Ferry Breastworks, are among the best preserved in the South. Many local residents have vivid recollections of the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who participated in the Louisiana Maneuvers that preceded U.S. involvement in World War II. The famous exercises paved the way for the establishment of Fort Polk.

Festivals and Events:

Vernon Parish has several festivals and parades throughout the year: Mayfest (arts and crafts festival), West Louisiana Forestry Festival and Rodeo, Cajun Fest, Fall Fest, Heritage Day, Party in the Park, Artwalk, Slagle Trade Days, Bluegrass Festival, Camp ‘N Jam Week, Mardi Gras Parade, Mardi Gras Ball, Roses-in-the-Pines, Christmas Parade, Homecoming Parade, and Rodeo Parade.

Art:

Art is alive and well in Vernon Parish. Gallery One Ellleven located in the downtown historic district features the works of some of our incredibly talented artists in Vernon Parish. The Vernon Arts Council sponsors performances from opera, ballet and stage plays and much more nationally acclaimed entertainment. Community groups such as the Vernon Parish Community Choir and the Vernon Parish Community Orchestra perform several concerts throughout the year. The Vernon Parish Library sponsors a Musical Odyssey Series featuring excellent musical performances throughout the year.

Parks:

There are several beautiful parks to enjoy in Vernon Parish including South Toledo Bend State Park, Liberty Garden, Dogwood Park, Leesville City Park, Myrtle Park, Magnolia Park, Anacoco Spillway Park, Covered Wagon Park, and more.

Outdoor Recreation:

Vernon Parish is known as “The Heart of Sportsman’s Paradise. Fishermen can explore nearby Anacoco and Vernon lakes or the 65-mile-long Toledo Bend Reservoir while catching their limits of bass, white perch, bream or catfish. Campgrounds are available with shower facilities, running water, and enclosed pavilions for family get-togethers. Tack-a-Paw Expeditions offers canoeing along Toro Bayou and the Sabine River. For the hunter, there are 3 wildlife management areas in Vernon Parish with an abundance of white tail deer, squirrels, rabbits, turkeys, ducks and other wildlife. Enjoy driving along the many scenic byways throughout Vernon Parish. A new Frisbee-golf course has been added at Myrtle Park.

Sports:

The Leesville Recreation Complex includes a soccer field and five lighted baseball/softball fields and concession stand. A new swimming pool will be constructed in 2008. Golf enthusiasts will find challenges on the nine-hole Leesville Municipal Course, the 18-hole Warrior Hills Golf Course at Fort Polk and the demanding fairways of nearby Emerald Hills and Cypress Bend Golf Courses. Enjoy bowling at Louisiana Lanes in Leesville. There are several tennis courts in Vernon Parish.

Theatres:

A six-screen cinema theatre is located in Leesville. Showboat Theatre, located at Fort Polk and open to the general public, has featured big name entertainment such as the Charlie Daniels Band and boasts a large and very active volunteer theatre community, which is always in need of new talent--either on stage or behind the scenes. At least four productions are scheduled throughout the year. The Theatre offers top-notch dinner shows as well as performance only shows.

Dining:

Vernon Parish is home to more than 50 dining establishments sure to please everyone. Restaurants range from fine dining to fast food and unique cuisine including, Cajun, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, seafood, steaks and much more.

Ten Specific Attractions in Vernon Parish:


1. Museum of West Louisiana — located in the former Kansas City Southern Railway Depot welcomes you to its displays of archaeological artifacts, logging implements, railroad memorabilia and other items unique to the area.

2. Fort Polk Military Museum — see exhibits ranging from the American Revolution through Desert Storm.

3. Kisatchie National Forest — catch a glimpse of the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker or hike the low-land bogs with wild orchids and pitcher plants.

4. Burr Ferry Breastworks — the site of military action during the Civil War. Confederate soldiers erected an artillery site to guard against Union Movements along the Nolan Trace. These earthworks are among the best preserved in the south.

5. Fullerton Mill Site — located in the Kisatchie National Forest, on the National Register of Historic Places, contains ruins and foundations of one of the largest sawmill operations in the south.

6. Talbert Cemetery at Cravens — has 13 surviving wooden grave houses, a tradition that is upheld by the families today.

7. Holly Grove Methodist Church — the oldest protestant church in continuous use West of the Mississippi river.

8. Hodges Gardens State Park — (located 20 miles away) includes 70 acres of formal gardens on 3 levels including 3 formal rose gardens and 50 seasonally changed flower beds. Enjoy walkways, waterfalls, a geyser, fountains, pools, a 7-mile scenic drive and much more.

9. Empire Point Gardens — located on 4 acres, this beautiful garden is a gardener’s dream-come-true. The garden is bordered with many of the over 1000 named varieties of daylilies, over 300 different specimens of hydrangeas, 130 specimens of camellias, 200 hybrid varieties of native iris, and many types of Japanese maples, magnolias and other ornamental trees.

10. Leesville National Register Historic District - located on Third Street in the heart of the old business district. The crown jewel of the district is the historic 1910 Vernon Parish Courthouse — a classical revival style building topped with an elegant dome.

Other Properties on the National Register of Historic Properties - First United Methodist Church, Lyons House, the Smart Plantation House, the Dr. William Reid House, the Wingate House, the Ferguson House, and the Booker-Lewis House. There are also a number of State Historic Markers located throughout the parish.

The Vernon Council on Aging provides many activities for seniors such as beading and oil painting classes. Bingo and dominoes are played frequently. Birthday and anniversary parties are held each month and several trips are scheduled throughout the year to state and local attractions. They also receive discounts on cruises.

Public Library:

Vernon Parish enjoys an excellent parish-supported public library system. Located in Leesville, the Parish Library is housed in an ultra-modern 20,000 square foot facility completed in the spring of 1995 and contains over 106,000 volumes. Special features include a children’s wing, a meeting room with seating for 100 people, a large collection of genealogy research items and local archives, CD-ROM reference, public access to federal documents, State Library On-Line catalog and LOUIS with access to INTERNET and holdings of university libraries throughout the state. The Parish Library has two branches and a bookmobile service.

Continuing and Higher Education:

Louisiana Technical College/Lamar Salter Campus in Vernon Parish offers programs in accounting technology, air conditioning and refrigeration, automotive technology, carpentry, computer specialist, consumer electronics technology, diesel powered equipment technology, early childhood education, industrial electronics technology, nurse assistant, office systems technology, outdoor power equipment technology, practical nursing, and welding.

Several universities have satellite campuses located in Vernon Parish. These universities are Northwestern State University, Louisiana State University-Alexandria, Central Michigan University, Upper Iowa University and Central Texas College. Northwestern is a fully accredited four-year university located in Natchitoches. Their Leesville/Fort Polk Campus offers six Associate degrees, five Baccalaureate degrees and four Masters of Education degrees, all in their entirety. Additionally, the first two years of courses for other degrees are available at the Leesville/Fort Polk campus. Those programs can be completed at the Natchitoches Campus, which is an approximately 50-mile drive from the Leesville/Fort Polk Campus. Senior citizens are eligible to take one class per semester free of tuition.

Retail Services:

Vernon Parish has numerous shopping centers. These include: Berrytown Shopping Center, Leesville Town Plaza, Leesville Square, Phillip’s Square and Southgate Plaza. One of the largest Wal-Mart Supercenters and Lowe’s Supercenters are located in Leesville. The Third Street Farmer’s Market is open on Saturday mornings, offering seasonal produce. It is located in our downtown historic district. The Alexandria Mall is located only 45 miles to the east with anchor stores such as J.C. Penney, Sears and Dillard’s.

Ten specific retail stores and specialty shops in Vernon Parish are:

Russell’s Gift Shop
Gallery One Ellleven
Imperial Hardware (all three in downtown historic district)
Four Corners Custom Frames & Crafts
Blessings
Rustic Star
April’s Boutique
In The Beginning
G&G Silver
Trumpet Figurines & Gifts
Ivy Cottage
Landscape and Climate

Vernon Parish is situated in the beautiful rolling hills and long-leaf pine forest of Western Louisiana, cut by creeks and bayous that flow out from the woods and into beautifully expansive reservoirs and lakes. The total normal annual rainfall is 63.10 inches. Vernon Parish has a semi-tropical climate that allows us to enjoy a complete seasonal cycle with pleasant spring and fall seasons. Winter months are usually mild with cold spells of short duration, with an average temperature for January being 49 degrees. Summer months are quite warm with an average temperature for July being 83 degrees.

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