The appearance of decorated bicycles throughout the Cenla area can mean only one thing…Third Annual Le Tour de Bayou is back! Le Tour de Bayou, a scenic cycling tour throughout the bayou region of Central Louisiana, will be held on September 20th, hosted by the Kent Plantation House.
Kent Plantation House was built in 1800 by Pierre Baillio II, and is Central Louisiana’s oldest standing structure. This French Creole style home, built raised on brick pillars to protect it from flood waters, has been fully restored with period correct furniture and pieces. All outbuildings, though not original to the plantation, are as old as the 214 year old house. These buildings compliment the House and together give a living history example of a typical working French Creole plantation of the early 1800’s. As the oldest standing structure in Central Louisiana, Kent House is a major part of the history of Central Louisiana.
In 1795, the young French Creole, Pierre Baillio II received a land grant from the King of Spain. The grant was signed by the Spanish Governor of Louisiana, Baron de Carondelet. Shortly after that, Napoleon again gained control of the Territory and in 1803, sold the entire Louisiana Territory to the United States. At the time of the Louisiana Purchase, Kent House was already three years old. When Alexandria was plotted out as a city, Kent House was five years old and when Louisiana became the 18th State in the Union, twelve years old. Three flags have flown over the property and all three are hung on the front gallery every day.
Kent House has survived the Civil War and the burning of Alexandria, a demolition plan in the 1960s and the ravages of time, plus severe budget cuts through the years.
Pierre and Magdelaine completed their six room Colonial Creole style house in 1800. In 1842, their descendents sold the House to Robert Hynson who added the two side rooms in a Greek Revival style. On the death of Hynson in 1875, his acreage was divided among his children. The portion with the House went to his second daughter who lived there until 1908 when a tornado destroyed the open hearth kitchen. She sold the House to a land development company and it was subsequently owned by several landowners before being purchased by the American Legion in 1948.
When the Legion built a new clubhouse in the 1960’s, they no longer needed the House and planned to tear it down. To save it from demolition, a group in town with foresight and determination, realized the historical significance of the House. Friends of Kent House was formed and began a fundraising campaign. The Legion donated the House to the Friends group with the stipulation that it be moved within sixty days. The House was moved in four sections in January, 1964 to land purchased by the Friends from a direct descendent of the builder of the House. It was placed on the Historic Register in 1971 and opened for tours in 1975.
The primary mission of Kent House is education. The mission statement reads: “Kent Plantation House preserves, interprets and promotes its historic site to educate the public about the history and culture of Central Louisiana between 1795 and 1855.”
The Tour de Bayou will feature seven levels of participation. All levels will begin and end at Kent Plantation House.
- 102 Mile: Recommended for aggressive/endurance riders featuring hilly terrain around the 50 mile mark and 70 mile mark.
- 71 Mile: Recommended for intermediate/endurance riders, featuring some hilly terrain on Highway 71.
- 56 Mile: Recommended for recreational/intermediate riders featuring mostly flat terrain, except for Thompson Bridge, Highway 1 overpass.
- 31 Mile: Recommended for recreational riders.
- 9 Mile: A flat, family friendly ride.
- 2 Mile Family Fun Ride/Walk
- 5K run (chip timed)
Several training rides have been scheduled for a number of the rides. Please check the Le Tour de Bayou Facebook page to see when these will be taking place. This will be a good chance for participants to ride the route before the actual event.
The rides will meander around the cypress-lined bayou region of Central Louisiana, taking cyclists through an authentic Belgian farming community with fields of cotton, soy beans, corn, and grain sorghum. Participants on these rides will experience varied landscapes and topography, and see historic homes and churches, wildlife and traditional livestock of the region. Along the route, there will be special points of interest highlighted on the map, these points all have significance to the history of the area.
Hidden in the bayous, beneath the bald cypress groves and old growth pine, is a world of natural beauty, excitement, learning, recreation, resources and wildlife in their purest form. During the event, Kent House will be open for free tours by costumed docents as well as ongoing period demonstrations such as blacksmithing, open hearth cooking, candle and soap making, butter churning, quilting and much more. There will be something for everyone.
Prior to the ride, on Friday evening, September 19th, there will be a Registration Celebration on the beautiful grounds of Kent House. Registration combined with food and drink…the perfect way to relax and enjoy time with friends and family before the big ride. Musical Entertainment will feature Reverend Charley’s Patent Medicine Show.
Before any of the riders take off on Saturday morning, Kent House will host the Blessing of the Bikes by Father Charles Ray at 6:30am. This very impressive ceremony takes place just after daylight, with all the riders lining the long driveway to the House. Shortly after that, at 7:00am, the 102-, 71- and 56-mile rides will begin, led by guest rider Scott Moninger.
Scott Moninger is an American professional road racing cyclist. He was born October 20, 1966 in Atlanta, Georgia, grew up in Wichita, Kansas, and moved to Boulder, Colorado, in the mid 1980s to further his career in cycling. Moninger turned professional in 1991 with the Coors Light Team, directed by Len Pettyjohn. Since then, he has won nearly every road race in North America, with over 275 career victories, the most by any American rider at the time of his retirement. Scott retired from racing in 2007, racing his final year as a pro with the BMC Racing Team. He is currently a commentator for road racing coverage on the NBC Sports Network as an analyst for the Tour de France. He is a Master Level Cycling Coach with The Peaks Coaching Group, and the National Brand Ambassador for Speedplay pedals.
The chip-timed 5K Run will begin at 7:30am, and the 31-mile ride will begin at 7:45am, followed by the more family-oriented events. The 9-mile bicycle ride will begin at 9:30am, and the 2-mile Family Fun Ride/Walk begins at 10:00am. Support and Gear (SAG) Stations will be available along each route, and a lead car and sweeper will accompany each level of participation. The City of Alexandria Police Department and the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office will be available throughout the routes to ensure the safety of all participants.
Saturday morning after the ride, a rest and relaxation tent will be available for anyone needing refreshments, snacks and complimentary massages. An After Ride Party will feature live Louisiana music, plenty of food and drink, and is the perfect place to relax after a long ride!
In addition to hosting Le Tour, Kent Plantation House serves the general public of Central Louisiana, school children of Rapides Parish and tourists from other parts of the United States and abroad through cultural, educational and tourist programs. Visitors, students and participants learn about the history and culture of the site. Although economic development through tourism is neither a mission nor a goal, it is a by-product that serves and benefits Kent House, the Alexandria/Pineville area and the State of Louisiana. Last year, Kent House welcomed over 27,000 visitors from every state in the Union and 29 foreign countries.
In addition to Le Tour de Bayou, Kent Plantation House hosts several educational events throughout the year. Typically, the first event of the year is a Black History Month Art Exhibit, held every February and coordinated by Ethel Dixon, local artist and art teacher. The first Saturday in May is Bug Day, held on the Kent House grounds by the USDA Forestry Department, Southern Research Station. This year’s event, the 7th Annual, brought approximately 1,500 visitors of all ages to learn about the good bugs and the bad bugs. It has grown every year and is a very popular event within the community.
June brings the Jane in June Camp for young ladies ages eight through thirteen. This is a weeklong camp that focuses on how young ladies, during the Jane Austen era, would have worked, played and lived their lives during that period in history. Activities range from tea parties, table manners, sewing, gardening, and always one special project. On the last day of camp, the girls host a tea party for their families to show what they have learned as well as their craft projects.
Archaeology Day is held the last week in September and is very popular with area schools. Reservations are required and usually fill up fast. Generally, with students, teachers and parents, there are between 800 and 1,000 participants learning about the Native American culture of our area.
Each October, the House is decorated for mourning and the tours focus on the mourning customs of the 1800’s. One of the sons of the builder of the House died of Yellow Fever in 1853 and his death is commemorated every year. Approximately every other year, a Funeral Re-enactment is held, historically accurate to that time period. October also brings Tales Along the Bayou, Ghost Stories at Kent House. This is a project of the Rapides Parish Library and is always held at the end of the month, close in time to Halloween. Last year’s event drew a crowd of approximately 1,200 visitors enjoying songs and spooky stories.
The largest Festival held each year is the Sugar Day Festival, always the second Saturday in November. This is a daylong festival celebrating the sugar industry of Louisiana. Even though Kent House was a cotton plantation, they grew some sugar cane for their own use. The 1840’s style sugar mill is fired up the Thursday before and by Saturday, the fire is just right for making sugar out of cane juice. There are period demonstrations, arts and crafts vendors, music, food, lots of children’s activities and free tours of the House. This Festival has grown steadily through the years and we now welcome between 4,000 and 5,000 visitors. Sugar Day 2014 will be the 21st Annual event.
December brings an Old Fashioned Christmas as part of the City of Alexandria’s Twelve Nights of Christmas. Children learn how Christmas was celebrated in the early 19th century. In addition to special events, Kent House also has an outreach program, Magdelaine’s Trunk, open hearth cooking demonstrations every Wednesday from October through April, a large number of school visitations throughout the year, tour buses, including three French groups last Spring, and walk-in tourists from all over the world, eager to learn about Central Louisiana in the early 19th century. There are also historical symposiums, gardening workshops and symposiums and many other events.
Even with all the great events throughout the year, Le Tour continues to be a community favorite, and not just for the riders. Family members who are not taking part in a particular level of cycling, or who return to Kent House before the rest of their party, will find plenty of things to do during the day. The House will be open for free tours in an open-house style. There will be docents in every room telling the visitors how life was lived in the early 19th century. Both the open-hearth kitchen and the blacksmith shop will be fired up with experts on hand to demonstrate both venues. There will be soap and candle making, butter churning and quilting demonstrations. New to the event this year will be inflatable obstacle courses, slides and jumpers, sturdy enough for kids and kids at heart, which will be provided by Monkey Shines for Kids from Ball. Other activities are also being planned.
No fundraiser can be successful without sponsors. Through the years, Kent Plantation House has been very fortunate to have the support of the community. Many, many thanks to all the amazing sponsors who so generously support our mission. For additional information, please call the Kent House office at (318) 487-5998 or visit www.bikereg.com to register for the event of your choice. Registration includes an Event t-shirt, Friday Night Registration Celebration and a Post-Ride Party at Kent House. The first 300 registrants will receive a free Le Tour de Bayou hat. Come see us on the bayou and laissez les bicyclettes rouler!
Sponsors & Partners of Le Tour de Bayou 2014:
The Town Talk, Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, Louisiana Pick Your Passion, GAEDA, Alexandria/Pineville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Capital One Bank, Cleco Power, Martin Companies, Agilus Health LLC, The Brace Place, Christus Health St. Frances Cabrini Hospital, Rapides Regional Medical Center, Frances B. Davis, Hixson Autoplex, Sara Simmonds, Bussey and Lauve, Hixson Brothers Funeral Home, J. Michael Small Law Office, Walker Automotive, Alexandria Neurosurgical Center, Antoon Enterprises, Central Louisiana Surgical Center, Diamond B Construction Co. LLC, Jena Choctaw Pines Casino, McBride Law Firm, Ratcliff Construction Co. LLC, Red River Bank, Southern Chevrolet, Cadillac Inc., Tudor, Inc., UTLX, Wallace Eye Surgery, Wilburn Enterprises of Alexandria (DBA McDonald’s), Dr. and Mrs. Christian J. Wold, Finnegans Wake Pub, Glazer’s Distributors, Dr. and Mrs. Foster Hensel, Monkey Shines 4 Kids, Cenla Broadcasting, Cenla Focus, KALB TV, KLAX TV, KMXH Mix Radio, City of Alexandria, Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Department, Acadian Ambulance, Run Wild, Red River Cyclery, Fit Families of Cenla, Kistachie Bike Club, Hypergraphics