“You’re Not From Around Here, Are Ya?”

It’s always difficult when moving to a new area. In addition to physically moving all your belongings, you’ve got to learn your way around, and that includes learning to “speak local.” Below you’ll find some helpful tips so that you’ll sound like a native when you arrive at Fort Polk.

  • Parish / County:  Louisiana parishes are the equivalent of counties in other states.
  • Loo’-zi-ann’-ah: Louisiana.
  • Ell’-ick: Short for Alexandria, LA. Some people try to shorten it to Alex or Aleck, but that’s not how we say it.
  • Nack’-i-dish: Natchitoches, LA. Don’t get confused if you hear someone talking about Nack’-a-dough’-chez – they’re probably referring to Nacogdoches, TX.
  • Bō’-zyur: Bossier City, LA or Bossier Parish
  • Man’-ee: Many, LA
  • Cal’-ca-shoe: Calcasieu River or Parish. Originally the name of an Atakapa leader and means “Crying Eagle.”
  • New Lon’-oh or New Lan’-oh: New Llano, LA. The original founders of New Llano were a Socialist group who moved here from California to escape political persecution and financial problems. Their town in California was called Llano (Yon’-oh), with a Spanish pronunciation, and you might still come across some old timers who refer to it this way, but most people enunciate the “L”.
  • An’-a-co’-ca: Anacoco, LA. Some sources say it refers to the Caddoan word for “muddy sands.”
  • Ki-satch’-ee: Kisatchie National Forest. Derived from the Kichai Indians of the Caddoan Confederacy.
  • Anacoco Lake / Vernon Lake: Vernon Parish contains two man-made lakes. The first one was created in 1951 when a spillway was built on Anacoco Creek and it was naturally named Anacoco Lake. Twelve years later, the second, larger lake was built. It is also on Anacoco Creek and is closer to the village of Anacoco, LA, but because that name was already in use, the second was named Vernon Lake.
  • “The” Lake: refers to Toledo Bend Reservoir, another man-made lake located just outside Vernon Parish. The other, smaller lakes are referred to by their specific names.

Brief History of West Central Louisiana

Scholars generally recognize three major cultures within the state of Louisiana – New Orleans has a Creole culture, a result of the blending of early French nobles and army officers with the later Spanish settlers and free-people-of-color; South Louisiana has a Cajun (the local version of “Acadian”) culture, resulting from the blending of Acadians from Nova Scotia, French nationalists and English-speaking blacks, many of whom descended from freed slaves; and North Louisiana, originally populated by English-speaking British Americans, which was the last section settled since it was almost entirely covered with large pine forests and considered to be unproductive land.

Subsistence Farmers

Both New Orleans and South Louisiana were dominated by French-speaking Catholics. The early settlers in North Louisiana, however, were small farmers with a strong Protestant work ethic. The section did include a few large plantations, established along the Mississippi, Red and Ouachita Rivers (Lowland South culture) which were dependent upon a large slave population to operate, but the area destined to become Vernon Parish was first settled by immigrants of the Upland South culture, who primarily lived on subsistence farms.

Lumber Boom

Vernon Parish enjoyed a brief financial boom beginning in 1897 when the Kansas City Southern Railroad arrived in Leesville. Lumber barons bought up the land for pennies on the dollar and hired the local farmers to cut the timber which could then be shipped “back east” for great profit. Many African-Americans came to the area at this time, following the jobs.

For a brief time, Vernon Parish was actually the richest parish in the state, but when their last stand of pine had been cut, those investors pulled up stakes and moved on, taking their profits with them. When they left, the virgin long-leaf pines had all been cut and nothing planted to replace them. Scrub brush grew over the land where none had been before.

During the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps planted more than 3,000,000 trees across the nation, including the denuded land in Vernon Parish. Today, responsible lumber companies control how many trees are cut and quickly re-plant in the cutover areas.

Great Louisiana Maneuvers

In 1940, the US Army secured the rights to conduct training maneuvers on more than 3,400 square miles of sparsely populated rural areas in Louisiana and Texas, including all of Vernon Parish. From 1940-1944 several exercises were held with more than 400,000 troops passing through the area at one time or another. The largest exercise, known locally as “The Big One,” consisted of a mock battle between red and blue troops over navigation rights to the Mississippi River. Military umpires ranked the combatants and decided on winners and losers in each scenario.

Today, the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk continues the training maneuvers tradition, hosting several rotations each year, with scenarios custom-designed to prepare each training unit for the difficulties they expect to face while completing their real-world missions.  

Ever since those early maneuvers in the 40’s, Fort Polk has been a major source of revenue and jobs for the citizens of West Louisiana.

Celebrate Christmas 2021

November 20, 2021 – January 26, 2022

Natchitoches Christmas Festival of Lights – Natchitoches

November 26 – December 23, 2021

5:15-9:30pm – BELIEVE Lights the Night — Shreveport Aquarium, Shreveport

Weekends November 26 – December 29, 2021

5:30-8pm each day – Holiday Light Safari — Alexandria Zoological Park, Alexandria

November 26, 2021 – January 2, 2022

12pm-6pm each day – Boardwalk Blizzard — Boardwalk Boulevard, Bossier City

November 26, 2021 – February 27, 2022

9 am-5 pm – Sno-Port 2021: The Snow Factory – Sci-Port Discovery Center, Shreveport

November 27 – December 18, 2021 (Saturdays only)

Various Times – Santa’s Sleigh Ride (plus other Christmas activities) – South College Center, Lafayette

December 1, 2021 – January 1, 2022

5:30 pm-Midnight – Christmas Light Show – Downtown DeRidder

December 2 – 5, 2021

7 pm –  A Christmas Carol – Ruston Community Theatre at Dixie Center for the Arts, Ruston

December 3, 2021

4-9 pm – Snowflake Festival, 2021 – Main Post Exchange, Fort Polk

December 3, 2021

7 pm – Rudolph – Get to the Point Ballet Company at Kress Theatre — Alexandria

December 3 – 5, 2021

6-9 pm – A Night in Bethlehem – Living Nativity at Family Worship Center, Leesville

December 4, 2021

8:30am-9pm – Light Up the Lake Christmas Celebration – Lake Charles Civic Center, Lake Charles

9am – Miracle on Washington Street Festival – Washington Ave., Downtown DeRidder

9am-3pm – Annual Christmas Porch Sale –  River Oaks Square Arts Center, Alexandria

2:30 pm – Cajun Night Before Christmas – Beauregard Museum, DeRidder

7pm – The Bulls that Stole Christmas (rodeo) – Ted Johnson Arena, Hineston

8 am – 12 pm – Breakfast with Santa – St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church, Leesville

December 9, 2021

5:30-7:30 – Christmas Candlelight Tour – John Jay French Museum, Beaumont, TX

December 10 – 11, 2021

5 – 8 pm – Holiday on the Bend – Toledo Bend Army Rec Site, Florien

7 pm – The Nutcracker – Joan Kathey Dance Center Stars at Leesville High School Auditorium, Leesville

December 10-12, 2021

Various Times — The Charitable Sisterhood — Impromptu Players at Wooten Theater, DeRidder

December 11, 2021

8 am – Reindeer Run – 5K Fun Run / Walk, Leesville

8am – 4 pm – Shop Small Christmas Festival – Downtown Leesville

10am – 7 pm – Christmas Around the Cabin – Railroad St., Merryville

2pm – Christmas on the Homefront – Mansfield State Historic Site, Mansfield

5:30 pm – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas Parade – Downtown Leesville

6:30pm – The Nutcracker – Shreveport Metropolitan Ballet at Riverview Theatre, Shreveport

December 18, 2021

12 pm – Wreaths Across America — Cannon Cemetery, Merryville

1 pm- 5 pm – Christmas Extravaganza Pop Up – Martin Luther King Community Center – Leesville

It’s Fall, Y’all

Here in West Central Louisiana we’re starting to make plans for fall. The weather has turned cooler, the county fair has come and gone, and here in Vernon Parish we’re ready to celebrate. Next weekend we’re gonna do just that.

The fun will start on Saturday, October 30th, with the Armadillo Classic Car Show and Motorcycle Rally. Mayor Rick Allen, himself a classic car / motorcycle buff, will be there showing some of his cars. If you want to “Run with the Dillo” or enter a car, registration starts at 9am.

Derby Daze, the Louisiana State Derby Championship, will be starting at 10:00 am. The derby gives children ages 6-17 an opportunity to build their own cars –based on a specific plan—and race them down Third Street using gravity as their only source of power. This year prizes will be given for age division winners and one Grand Champion. 

Stop by and check out the custom-built racers and pick up some specs for building your own next year. The volunteers organizing the races, just like the classic car owners, are great talkers and always happy to share their knowledge, so please, don’t hesitate to stop the first one you see and ask your questions.

Don’t forget to stop by the Main Street Market while you’re downtown. You never know what you might find there – anything from farmers selling their produce, jams, and jellies to artisans selling their home-made goods. They’re open year-round on Saturdays from 8 am until 1 pm.

Also, be sure to check out the scarecrows on the Historic Courthouse lawn. The Mayor’s Women’s Commission are hosting their annual Scarecrow Contest, open to youth organizations in the area, so there should be some great examples.

And finally, Witch Way to Main Street, hosted by Leesville Main Street, will run from 6 to 9 pm. Local businesses will gather on Third Street, setting up booths with games and candy for the young Trick-or-Treaters, so dress the kiddies in their costumes and bring them downtown for family-friendly fun.

This looks like the middle of nowhere! What are we gonna do for fun?

True, on a map Fort Polk might appear to be in the middle of nowhere – and once the area was actually known as No Man’s Land – but let me set your mind at ease. You can find almost anything you might be interested in doing within an easy drive from Fort Polk.

For today, let’s start with a little information about Vernon Parish, where Fort Polk is located. We’ll explore the broader area in later posts.

In Leesville you’ll find shopping; restaurants; art galleries and classes; yoga groups, spas and gyms; a farmer’s market; coffee and tea shops; a movie theater, bowling alley and skating rink; VFW and American Legion halls; bingo and video gaming; dirt track racing and more.

Outdoor activities are abundant.

There are plenty of lakes and forests to explore just outside your door, with trails for hiking or riding; hunting, fishing or boating; picnic areas and nature observatories, etc.… If you really hate the heat, there are several scenic by-ways in the parish where you can enjoy an air-conditioned drive from the comfort of your own car while you explore the area.

Besides the usual on-post MWR activities for your children, our communities have youth soccer, baseball, softball, basketball, football and track organizations, as well as classes for dance, tumbling and martial arts.

There are lots of events throughout the year – and admission is free or minimal for most of them! We’ll have more on them later, but we do hope you’ll join us – we’d love to meet you!

What sort of events would you be interested in attending? Let us know in the comments below…

Congratulations Educators!

Fort Polk Progress extends congratulations to area educators who were named winners in the elementary school division of the Louisiana Department of Education state-level Teacher and Principal of the Year process. The winners were announced during a virtual ceremony July 16. 
Kaitlyn Richard, who teaches at South Beauregard in Beauregard Parish was named the elementary teacher division winner, while Karen Robertson, principal at West Leesville Elementary in Vernon Parish, was named the elementary principal division winner. 

Kaitlyn Richard

Being able to invest into the community that built me, is one of the greatest honors that I have had as a teacher.

“As a former military dependent, I understand the concerns and issues that military families have in regards to their child’s education. I look forward to sharing my platform of creating a positive school culture and building leadership skills in my students and teachers across the state of Louisiana.”

Karen Robertson

Fort Polk: the Heart of Vernon Parish

When we say that Fort Polk is the heart of Vernon Parish, we don’t just mean that the base is in the center of the parish. It goes much deeper than that. Fort Polk is intricately connected to the identity of the parish. The people of Vernon Parish are deeply patriotic, with an unmatched sense of duty toward our country and the service men and women who defend it.

Vernon Parish (parishes equate to counties in other states) was named after George Washington’s home, Mt. Vernon, and was created by an act of the Louisiana legislature on March 30, 1871, from portions of the parishes of Natchitoches, Rapides and Sabine.

The 61,000 residents of Vernon Parish are proud of their close association with the people of Fort Polk.   

As it happens, the terrain of Vernon Parish is excellent for training soldiers for combat in all parts of the world, which led to the Louisiana Maneuvers in the 1940’s. 

Camp Polk came into being in 1941 when the federal government evicted 250 families from their homesteads. Despite the extreme hardship these families endured, many were proud (and their descendents remain so) to have contributed to the largest training maneuvers ever held and to have ultimately been a part of what has become a premier training facility for the United States Army.  

Camp Polk was named for Leonidas Polk, an Episcopal bishop and corps commander in the Confederate Army.

Let us know what you think in the comments! 

Contact Us:
Fort Polk Progress | PO Box 1191 | Leesville, LA 71496

Fort Polk: Education Options for the Graduate and Adult

A move to Fort Polk is the perfect opportunity to learn new things or finish that degree. 

And the educational opportunities are plentiful for the enterprising recent graduate or adult.

Northwestern State University, located a little over an hour away in historic Natchitoches offers a variety of degree programs. However, don’t despair if the idea of driving all that way overwhelms you. One of NSU’s satellite campuses is right outside the Fort Polk gate. And if that’s too far, they offer a ton of online degrees

Mcneese State University offers similar opportunities, with online degrees as well. 

The Lamar Salter Campus of Central Louisiana Technical Community College, located just south of Fort Polk on U.S. Highway 171, offers a variety of degrees in technical education. 

Effective July 1, 2021, SOWELA Technical Community College will acquire the Lamar Salter campus, greatly expanding the offerings. The transition is expected to take a year. 

Admissions for Central Texas College are open to all military members, their dependents, GS employees and the general public, and the requirements are much less stringent than other colleges. CTC offers a variety of programs. Classes and offices are located at 7460 Colorado Ave. Bldg. 660,  Room 102, Fort Polk. 

Upper Iowa University offers educational services to veterans and service men and women, as well as civilians, including Department of Defense (DoD) employees, federal contractors and military dependents (spouses and children). Explore the degree programs here

A move to Fort Polk could offer you the perfect opportunity to prepare for the next phase of your life: get that degree!

Let us know what questions you may have and we’ll  do our best to answer them!

Contact Us:
Fort Polk Progress | PO Box 1191 | Leesville, LA 71496

Fort Polk: Education Options for Your Children

Now that you have a plan for where you’re going to live, if you have children, your mind is likely turning toward their education, and if you don’t have children, you may be thinking about your own education options. 

Let’s talk about the options for children first. There’s plenty to cover. 

Two public school districts serve the children of Fort Polk. The Vernon Parish School District serves approximately 2,00 military-connected children, while the Beauregard Parish School District serves close to 200 military-connected children. 

Fort Polk is actually located within the Vernon Parish School District, so you can expect transportation to be part of the package within the transportation circle of the school you choose. On their website, if you click on the Campus icon at the top of the page, a dropdown menu of all the schools in the district will appear. 

All told, two high schools (Pickering and Leesville); one dedicated junior high; one middle school and five elementary schools (Pickering, North Polk, Parkway, East and West) serve the area closest to the base. In addition, the district offers virtual school

The district is also keenly aware that it serves military families, and has a military liaison office to help you get settled and to learn about all the opportunities they offer that will help your children with their academic goals beyond high school. 

You can download enrollment forms for the Vernon Parish District here.

Another option is the Beauregard Parish School District, which is south of the base in another parish. For some families, this is a fine option. It just depends on your needs and preferences.  See the post on housing options for more on the benefits of living in different areas. 

Again, click on the Campus icon on the district’s home page for a drop down menu of the different schools in the parish. DeRidder High School and DeRidder Junior High make the most sense for anyone who lives in DeRidder and commutes to Fort Polk, as do Carver Elementary, K.R. Hanchey Elementary and Pinewood Elementary. 

You can read about each school and each district’s performance scores as measured by the state here. And you can discover state graduation requirements here. 

A third option is private school, which can either be your own home school, or one of two schools in the area. Faith Training Christian Academy offers a Christian education, using the A Beka program primarily for K-4 through 12th grade. First Assembly Christian Academy provides day care and education for ages 6 weeks through 8th grade. In addition, their extracurricular activities are open to homeschool students. 

Finally, of course, homeschooling is an option. To ensure you comply with state attendance laws, click here. 

Comment with your questions or insight below! We look forward to talking with you more!

Contact Us:
Fort Polk Progress | PO Box 1191 | Leesville, LA 71496

Fort Polk Housing options: Where will I live?

If you’re about to be stationed at Fort Polk, your biggest question might be, where will I live?

And that question can only be answered depending on your wants and needs. 

How close do you want to be to the base? 

Do you like rural areas or do you prefer being in town? 

Do you have kids? 

Which schools do you want them to attend? What types of activities do you want them to be involved in?

If you choose to live on base, click here and here for a breakdown of your options and more guidance. 

Many soldiers, especially those with families, choose to live off post in one of several communities surrounding Fort Polk. 

The nearest towns to Fort Polk headed north on U.S. Highway 171 are New Llano (5.1 miles away) and Leesville (6.8 milies). 

A little further north on U.S. 171 are Anacoco (21 miles) and Hornbeck (30 miles). Many Fort Polk families enjoy the quiet country living these communities offer. 

The North entrance to Fort Polk on Louisiana Highway 28 is close to Hicks (16 miles) and Simpson (19.3 miles) which are also good choices for military families, especially if you’d like the option of being closer to Alexandria for short trips that include more restaurant and shopping options. 

To the south of Fort Polk  on U.S. 171 there is Pickering (4.1 miles from Entrance Road) and Rosepine (12.1 miles), and further south is DeRidder (16.1 miles). From DeRidder it is only another hour to Lake Charles, where the restaurant and shopping options are much expanded.

The following real estate companies have a long history of helping soldiers and their families with their real estate needs. (If you represent a real estate company and would like to be listed here, let us know in the comments below). 

ERA Sarver Real Estate, Inc.

Century 21 Delia Realty Group

Morris Team Realty

Candice Skinner Real Estate

American Dream Real Estate

Fertitta Real Estate

Which housing options sound most appealing to you as you plan your move? 

Let us know what issues you’re facing by joining one of our social media groups and engaging with us there or send us your questions about Fort Polk and the surrounding communities by commenting below! 

We’ll be happy to answer, and if we don’t know, we’ll find out for you. We can’t wait to see you!

Contact Us:
Fort Polk Progress | PO Box 1191 | Leesville, LA 71496