Cheers to a New Year

By Corey Poole

New Years is right around the corner and whether you’re drinking to celebrate the upcoming year or forget the last one, there’s never a lack of choices.

Let’s face it, there are a lot of people who are completely unhappy with 2016 and are ready for it to finally be over. We lost a lot of talented people including Carrie Fisher, David Bowie, Prince, Zsa Zsa Gabor, George Michael, Florence Henderson, Leon Russell and Alan Rickman. Harry Potter and Star Wars fans are devastated.

Let’s not even get into the Presidential Election. There’s plenty of other headline stories that made 2016 a year to hate including the Disney gator attack, the death of Harambe at the Cincinnati Zoo, the Orlando nightclub shooting, the Bastille Day terrorist attack in France, police shootings across the country and many more.

As a journalist I try to stay up-to-date on everything that happens in our country and international events abroad. With the amount of negativity in our news feeds, I thought it would be appropriate to offer up some libation suggestions in case you’re looking to try something new to ring in 2017.

For those of you, like myself, who aren’t champagne fans here’s a few options:

My personal favorite, this Cabernet Sauvignon is big and bold in style. With the motto “Devour Life,” this wine offers intense, dark fruit aromas and a deep inky color. Be prepared for stained lips and tongue. Not to be gruesome, but its color and thickness can be likened to blood.

A plush, velvety mouthfeel frames rich flavors of dark berries, coffee, mocha and toasted oak, all backed by a distinctive smoothness and a lingering, silky finish.

19 Crimes:
A friend of mine introduced me to this Red Blends a few nights ago. Nineteen crimes turned criminals into colonists. Upon conviction British rogues guilty of at least one of the 19 crimes were sentenced to live in Australia, rather than death. This punishment by “transportation” began in 1783 and many of the lawless died at sea. For the rough-hewn prisoners who made it to shore, a new world awaited. As pioneers in a frontier penal colony, they forged a new country and new lives, brick by brick.

This wine celebrates the rules they broke and the culture they built. It bears the same traits as those banished to Australia. Defiant by nature, bold in character. Always uncompromising. It’s a taste you’ll never forget.


Kung Fu Girl Riesling:
While I’m not a fan of white wines, this Riesling stood out to me. I first tried it while on vacation in California two summers ago with my children and my parents. My father and I picked a random bottle of wine off the menu at a restaurant. We were looking for something to compliment the superb clam chowder the restaurant served. When I traveled down south to see my family for Thanksgiving this year, my father had a bottle of Kung Fu Girl Riesling for us to share.

This wine has flavors of white stone fruit, white peach and apricot with a cool and delicious aroma. Think Fuji apple, shiro plum, lime leaves, with a very long, minerally finish.


Acting NSU President discusses his new role and future of university

chris-maggioDr. Chris Maggio will officially step into his appointment as Acting President of Northwestern State University Jan. 1.

“I look forward to continuing and expanding the interaction that I have maintained over the years with our outstanding and creative students,” he said as he prepares for the start of a new semester. “It’s extremely rewarding to see students succeed in the classroom and in numerous other activities that reflect their passions and talents.”

Maggio says he takes great pleasure in the academic achievements of NSU students and in their accomplishments in student government, Creative and Performing Arts, Athletics, academic competition in speech, debate, computer information systems, student research and numerous other activities that enrich their experience at the university.

“It will be especially exciting to collaborate and work more closely with the university’s extraordinary faculty and staff,” said Maggio. “The commitment of Northwestern’s faculty members to the academic success of students is exceptional and is the very foundation for the strength and stability of the university.”

Northwestern has dedicated, highly-skilled staff members in every facet of the school’s operations, and Maggio looks forward to working with them, striving to make the university even greater in the months ahead.

A major initiative during the Spring semester will be continuing preparations for a visit to the campus in March by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges. All universities must seek reaffirmation of accreditation every 10 years, and NSU’s reaffirmation visit will be in the spring semester.

“A number of faculty and staff members have been engaged in preparations for this visit for months now,” said Maggio. “They have paved the way for what we expect to be a very successful reaffirmation process.”

The university is also finalizing its Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) that focuses on its overall improvement. The plan will emphasize Experiential Learning through research and special projects, internships, artistic performances and other experiences that enhance educational opportunities for undergraduate students.

“I also plan to devote increased attention to capital projects and improvement of the physical plant on the main campus at Natchitoches and other campuses,” said Maggio. “Some are already under way, and others are in planning stages.”

Projects include:

Renovating Varnado Hall, which is a priority, because the university needs additional housing to continue growth in enrollment

A new coffee shop for the Shreveport campus

Maggio plans to lead discussions on the development of a new academic building to replace Kyser Hall, which has become inadequate to meet the university’s academic and technology needs.

In his two years as president of NSU Dr. Jim Henderson helped create an atmosphere of optimism and excitement through new and enhanced academic programs, expanded experiences for students, improvements in the physical plant and other advancements.

“Everyone associated with the university is indebted to him for his vision and energy in revitalizing the school,” said Maggio. “We look forward to working with him in his new role as president of the University of Louisiana System which governs NSU and eight other universities. Dr. Henderson was at the forefront of the development of a Strategic Plan here that focuses on Academic Excellence, Athletic Prominence, Market Responsiveness, the Student Experience, and Community Enrichment. That plan will serve as a blueprint for the university’s future growth and development. His goal was to make NSU the nation’s premier regional university, and I look forward to leading efforts with faculty and staff, students, alumni, business and industry, community partners and other stakeholders to achieve that goal.”

Natchitoches Entergy customers among Parishes slated to receive refund, rate reduction in January


Natchitoches Parish is one of many in Louisiana in which Entergy customers will receive over $70 million in refunds on their January bill and an ongoing $9.4 million rate reduction as part of an agreement involving the cost to replace steam generators at the Waterford 3 nuclear plant.

The Louisiana Public Service Commission approved the agreement at its Dec. 21 meeting held in Kenner.

Although Entergy Louisiana and Entergy Gulf States Louisiana combined to form a single utility in 2015, only customers living in areas that were served by the former Entergy Louisiana company will receive a one-time refund and ongoing rate reduction. Typical residential customers using 1,000 kWh per month will receive a one-time refund of $37.73 on their January bill as well as an ongoing rate reduction of $0.43 per month.

“This settlement represents good news for our customers and resolves a long-standing issue for our company,” said Phillip May, president and CEO of Entergy Louisiana.

All Entergy Louisiana customers living in the following parishes will receive the refund and rate reduction: Assumption, Avoyelles, Bienville, Bossier, Caldwell, Catahoula, Claiborne, Concordia, East Carroll, Franklin, Grant, Jackson, Jefferson, LaSalle, Lafourche, Lincoln, Livingston, Madison, Morehouse, Natchitoches, Ouachita, Plaquemines, Red River, Richland, Sabine, St. John the Baptist, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. James, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Tensas, Terrebonne, Union, Vernon, Washington, Webster, West Carroll and Winn.

St. Mary’s student to air on America’s Funniest Videos


St. Mary’s student Katelyn Yopp and Jason Parker, her uncle/dance partner, will be featured on America’s Funniest Videos Sunday night, Jan. 1 at 6 p.m.
Katelyn and Jason won first place at the school’s “Dancing With The Tigers 2016” fundraising event. They put in many hours of practice and hard work preparing for that competition. Katelyn was born to dance, but it is safe to say she did not inherit those dancing abilities from her Uncle Jason. While Katelyn was teaching him some smooth moves, a video was made of some bloopers and flops… so to speak. The video was sent to America’s Funniest Videos, and will be aired Sunday. Tiger fans can tune in and see Katelyn “flip” her way into stardom with a lot of help from her uncle Jason!!!!!

‘Rising Star’ lawyers recognized by national publication


Michael Antoon and his wife Alyson Vamvoras-Antoon were nominated and chosen as 2017 “Rising Stars.” by Louisiana Super Lawyers. Only 5 percent of attorneys in Louisiana receive this honor.

“I am honored to be designated as a Rising Star in the legal community by Super Lawyers,” said Michael. “I am even more proud that Super Lawyers also bestowed this honor on my wife, Alyson. We appreciate those colleagues who nominated us for the selection process.”

Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters business, is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from over 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Super Lawyers requires two nominations from colleagues, independent research and evaluation based on relevant metrics, and is peer reviewed. The result is a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of exceptional attorneys.

“Practicing law is a means to help others and to effect needed positive societal changes,” said Michael. “I’m not sure that I would be happy in any other line of work.”

Michael attended Law School at Southern University Law Center from 2007-2010 where he received his juris doctor. He currently works as a trial attorney practicing with Vamvoras, Schwartzberg & Associates LLC in Lake Charles. Alyson is a solo-practitioner at Antoon Law Firm LLC in Lake Charles. She handles a variety of cases including child custody, criminal defense, personal injury and animal-related cases. She is also a certified family and divorce mediator.

Michael was born and raised in Natchitoches.  He attended Natchitoches Central High School and graduated in 2002. He attended Northwestern State University from 2002-2007 where he obtained a bachelors in business administration. Both of his parents, Johnny and Merle Antoon, and his sister, Danielle Cobb, are graduates of NSU.

“Natchitoches is truly a special place,” he said. “My Facebook newsfeed is routinely inundated with posts of pictures of old friends returning with their significant others and new-born children to enjoy the Christmas lights, fireworks, and other various festivities that occur throughout the year. Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to stay in Natchitoches after high school or college but those that leave do so carrying the fondest of memories and experiences that serve as the cornerstones of their character. Also, you just can’t beat the people.”


Folk Festival gets NEA grant

folk-fest-2017Northwestern State University’s Louisiana Folklife Center will receive a $10,000 Challenge America grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support the 38th annual event.  The NEA approved more than $30 million in grants as part of the group’s first major funding announcement for fiscal year 2017. The Challenge America category supports primarily small and mid-sized organizations for projects that extend the reach of the arts to underserved populations—those whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics or disability.

“We are deeply honored that the Festival has received a Challenge America award from the National Endowment for the Arts,” said Dr. Shane Rasmussen, director of the Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival. “This year’s Festival will be a fun filled, educational event that will highlight some of the finest folk music, food, crafts and cultural traditions in Louisiana.”

“The arts are for all of us, and by supporting organizations such as Northwestern State University’s Louisiana Folklife Center, the National Endowment for the Arts is providing more opportunities for the public to engage with the arts,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “Whether in a theater, a town square, a museum or a hospital, the arts are everywhere and make our lives richer.”

The 38th annual Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival will be held on July 14-15, 2017 in air-conditioned Prather Coliseum on the Northwestern State University campus in Natchitoches, Louisiana. The 2017 Festival theme is “Keeping Tradition Alive!” In addition to the annual Louisiana State Fiddle Championship which will be held in the Magale Recital Hall on the afternoon of July 15, performers will present a variety of styles of music ranging from country, Cajun, zydeco, gospel, bluegrass and blues.

Artists will include Cajun music with Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys and Ray Abshire and Friends, Zydeco with Geno Delafose and French Rockin’ Boogie and Gerard Delafose and the Zydeco Gators, Texas Swing with the Caddo Creek Band, traditional mariachi music with Mariachi Jalisco US, blues with Hezekiah Early and the Houserockers and the Wayne “Blue” Burns Band, a traditional Easter Rock celebration, country with Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue, Natchitoches favorite Ed Huey, bluegrass with the Clancey Ferguson Band, French Creole la la music with Goldman Thibodeaux and the Lawtell Playboys and many more.

The 2017 Festival will also include a Cajun accordion workshop led by Ray Abshire and Steve Riley. With three music stages, Cajun dance lessons, narrative sessions, folk foods, traditional crafts persons and exhibits and Kidfest, the Festival audience will be greatly edified, enlightened and entertained at the 38th annual Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival, Rasmussen said.

The Louisiana Folklife Center was established at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana to identify, document, and present Louisiana’s cultural and folk traditions and to provide public access to this material via the Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival.

For more information on projects included in the NEA grant announcement, visit For more information contact, call (318) 357-4332, or check out the Louisiana Folklife Center on Facebook.

Recreation Dept. seeks participation in ‘Own Your Own Health’ Challenge

The City of Natchitoches Recreation and Parks Department is participating in the Own Your Own Health fitness challenge and are asking businesses, community groups, schools, and residents to join in.  The Own Your Own Health Challenge is a 3-month competition that encourages Louisianans to develop healthy activity and eating habits.  The challenge takes place Jan. 23 – April 23.

Participants are encouraged to form teams of up to 10 people, or they can participate as individuals.  Kids and teens may have as many team members as they like.  Teams will compete locally against other teams from the Natchitoches area, and Natchitoches teams will then challenge other teams statewide.

“The challenge is a physical activity and weight loss challenge that is mostly team based,” said Chris Laurence, City of Natchitoches Recreation and Parks Director.  “I think this will be a fun and free way to get people competing and get them moving. We want everyone to grab their friends, family, and co-workers and let’s get healthy.”

Teams and individual participants can compete in the Physical Activity Challenge, Weight Loss Challenge, or both.  The Physical Activity Challenge tracks how many steps/miles you walk, while the Weight Loss Challenge tracks how much weight you lose.

Participants will have chances to win prizes and incentives each week of the competition and will receive activity, nutrition and recipe tips via email.  Participants will also have access to a personalized online dashboard to track progress, team leader boards, personalized meal plans and customized workouts.  “Everything is tracked online and teams can compare themselves and see how they are doing against other teams,” added Laurence.

Registration for the Own Your Own Health Challenge can be completed online at | WebSite |.  Those interested can also receive more information by emailing or call (866) 562-9015.