Fort Polk’s June 11 Freedom Fest fast approaches, features live music, food, fun

Fort Polk Public Affairs Office
Chuck Cannon

 FORT POLK, La. –  The Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk FreedomFest takes place June 11 with fireworks, food vendors, a salute to the nation, static displays and musical guests Kylie Morgan and Jason Derulo on the JRTC and Fort Polk Headquarters Field.

Derulo, considered a multi-platform powerhouse, ranks among the top pop and urban artists with 11 Recording Industry Association of America platinum certified singles.
Morgan is an Oklahoma native who gained national attention from music producers and television executives after releasing her music independently.

If you’re interested in attending this event, which is open to the community, please take note of the following considerations:
For non-Department of Defense identification card holders, a visitor’s pass will be required. Pre-vetting is available by visiting https://visit.gvt.us/?b=usa&i=fort_polk&e=6Z7MFPZ9 and inputting your information. You will receive a text with your visitor-pass approval and directions to pick up your pass from the Visitor’s Control Center. Military police will be on-site to assist with parking, vetting and loading the shuttle buses (which are air conditioned).

Additional ACP information:
*ACP 5 (La. Hwy 467 – south/ Post Office gate) – will be open for extended hours in support of the Freedom Fest Event and concert June 11. The ACP will open for both entry and exit, at 9 a.m. and close when all guest have cleared the concert field. The ACP returns to standard hours of operation on June 12.

*ACP 2 (Parkway Elementary School gate) – will be open for exit only, in support of the FreedomFest. The ACP will open at 7 p.m. and close when all guest have cleared the concert field. The ACP will return to standard hours of operation on June 12. 

Please have a government or state issued ID card, for anyone over the age of 16, when you arrive at Honor Field for parking. Parking is $10 per car, and only cash will be accepted. All persons entering a federal installation are subject to search. Any non-DOD ID card holders who approach an access control point gate for entry will be directed to the Honor Field parking area.

DOD-ID cardholders can access Fort Polk from any gate. They will be directed to the nearest shuttle-bus parking lot at the following locations:
Allen Memorial Library; Education Center; Fort Polk Commissary; The Exchange; The Berry Mission Training Center; Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital (no shuttle bus from this location)
Shuttle buses will begin transporting attendees at 4 p.m. from all locations. All event-site entrance gates open at 4:30 p.m.

What to bring:
Blankets
Lawn chairs
Cash (automatic teller machines will be on-site) Sunscreen Strollers Small, insulated coolers for infant formula or water and diaper bags only

What NOT to bring:
Pets
Tents
Canopies
Coolers
Outside food or beverages
Alcohol
Glass bottles
Weapons
Video cameras
Backpacks or large bags
Professional cameras with telephoto lenses
Personal fireworks

For more information, call (337) 531-1959 or visit Fort Polk MWR at http://www.facebook.com/fortpolkmwr

Shop Local at Nearby Farmers Markets

By Kimberly Wallis

Whether you are new to an area or you’ve lived there your whole life, shopping local is a great way to both support your community and connect with other people in it. Checking out the local farmers market is fun and can be a great way to meet people with interests similar to yours. 

Types of sellers may vary each time you visit a farmers market but offerings usually include organic food, local honey, flowers, plants, seasonal fruits and veggies, homemade jellies, jams, or preserves, arts and crafts, and gift baskets.

Many of these sellers have poured their hearts into their goods by lavishing their time and attention on them, so they are more than willing to go the extra mile for those who appreciate that. You might get sent home with new recipes or a sample of something to try out. Maybe you’ll pick up some pointers at the arts and crafts booth. Could be that you find the perfect gift nestled amongst the woodworking display. It’s even possible you’ll get to try out a totally new ethnic dish from one of the food vendors. You never know what you’ll find tucked away in one!

You can also find some fantastic offerings, usually pretty reasonably priced, that aren’t already in everyone else’s homes (thanks to the magic of big box stores). This is a huge draw for me because I want my personal space to reflect my personal style.

Purchasing locally sourced food helps your family eat healthier by switching some of the processed food out of your diet in favor of fresher options; at the same time, this helps your neighbor and their family out financially. Added bonus, it’s better for the environment because it cuts down on shipping and helps with maintaining a natural habitat for native wildlife.

Find out what’s coming up locally at Leesville Main Street; their Third Street Market is open every Saturday from 8 AM- 1PM (no seller fees except for special events!).

Downtown Deridder’s McConathy Market is also a good local option. Also, check out Bountiful Baskets, not a market but in the same realm, a food co-op where you can feed your family much cheaper! 

There are also a few farmers markets around the state you should probably consider visiting at least once. For instance, plan for an entire day to visit the French Market. It spans six blocks of the French Quarter in New Orleans and is the oldest market of its kind in the United States. Another one you can make an entire day out of is a trip to the Flea Market of Louisiana and nearby Tanger Outlet Mall. Heads up though, you may need a U-Haul to get back home from these! 

You can make short day trips out of visiting the farmers markets in Lake Charles, Lafayette, Natchitoches, or Alexandria. Louisiana Travel made a list of popular ones around the state that you can find here.

Since farmers’ markets can affect such a positive impact on our communities, wouldn’t it be almost wrong not to take advantage of the many benefits you personally get out of it?

Louisiana’s Lone Cave

By: Charli Stanley

If you’re looking for a reason to get out of the house on a beautiful day, look no further than Wolf Rock Cave. Only a short drive from Fort Polk’s south entrance lies the only known cave in the entire state. This Louisiana wonder makes for a great opportunity to learn more about the history of the area while soaking in some of that famously warm, southern air. 

Darkness sits at the back of the winding tunnel through Wolf Rock Cave. Photo by Charli Stanley

Just a short hike from the parking area, through the trees, you can see two rock overhangs jutting out the side of a hill, overlooking Bundick’s Creek. Between the two overhangs is a distinct crevice that runs the length of the hill, a result of hundreds of years of erosion. 

Local lore claims the cave was discovered by some boys fishing on Bundick’s creek. They heard a faint whimpering coming from the darkness. Upon further inspection, they discovered a litter of wolf puppies, and so was born the name “Wolf Rock Cave.” 

Evidence indicates that this cave was once used as a rock shelter during the Late Archaic period. Early inhabitants are believed to have used the nearby resources of the area to make tools necessary for survival, while also seeking refuge within the walls of the cave. This brochure, created by the U.S. Forest Service, can provide more information on the kinds of tools that were essential to these early Archaic Indians. 

A little more recently, during the 1950’s and 60’s, the cave was frequently used as a camping spot for local hunters and fishers. On quiet nights, it was used as a hangout for the local teens until it became part of the Forest Service’s jurisdiction when it was determined within the boundaries of Kisatchie National Forest in the late 70’s. It is said that until this point, the cave led to two large rooms in the very back end, but it was deemed too dangerous for tourists to travel that far into the cave, so the rooms were sealed off by a controlled explosion.

It hasn’t always had the title of being the only cave in the state though. Before 1942, there was Murrell’s Cave. This network of caves is believed to have been used by the outlaw John Murrell as a hideout. His stolen goods, such as gold and silver, were much sought-after by treasure hunters and curious explorers, so the caves were closed off to prevent people from getting lost within the walls of the cave. Today, not much remains of the bandit’s trusty hideout, and the land it once sat within is now privately posted.

Wolf Rock Cave is still open to explore inside if you don’t mind crouching down to crawl through the damp, muddy bottom. There are also trails atop the overhangs to explore, but beware, the terrain is a bit rough, so bring your hiking shoes and make sure you have good footing before you take that first step.

Maybe if you’re lucky, you might even stumble across an old arrowhead, I hear the area is practically littered with them. As tempting as taking a souvenir may seem, please refrain from doing so, and remember to only leave footprints to preserve the area’s authenticity for future explorers to enjoy. 

Gardening in Louisiana

By Kimberly Wallis

Whether you prefer fresh cut flowers displayed on the windowsill or cooking with vegetables you grew yourself, Louisiana’s long growing season will be perfect for you! Either way, there is something truly satisfying about growing your own versus store bought. 

But maybe you don’t garden at all? Well your stay in Louisiana, with it’s subtropical climate, might be the perfect time to pick up a new hobby! For more info on the climate, click here.

The absolute best resource out there for beginning your gardening journey in Louisiana is the LSU Agricultural Center. They offer courses in Master Gardening and if you are already a Master Gardener in another state, you may be able to transfer that to Louisiana. There are also free certificate courses offered on home composting and home gardening.

LSU Ag Center’s program Get It Growing has both a YouTube channel and seasonal archives so you can get timely updates and see how the Louisiana growing schedule may be different from other areas. They also sell the Get It Growing Lawn and Garden growing calendar which will help you while providing some funding for these free programs at the same time. What a great way to pay it forward for future gardeners!

Doug Young Nursery displays its products at the 2019 Nursery Festival in Forest Hill, Louisiana.

Former Get It Growing host, Dan Gill, is a gardening columnist for the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Check out this article he wrote on what to plant each month. 

Greater New Orleans Gardening newsletters, also through the LSU Ag Center can be read here and you can sign up for their monthly emails as well. GNO Gardening Newsletters also include listings for garden centers in south Louisiana.

Seeds to Success is Louisiana’s farm to school program. An extremely helpful tool for teachers or those who homeschool, this site contains tips and guides which are useful at home as well.

Another great resource for gardening that works well no matter which hardiness zone you live in is the Farmer’s Almanac. No matter whether you are just starting out or a life long grower, you can find helpful tips, tricks, and growing advice they have been gathering since 1818!

The Good Food Project, in nearby Alexandria, allows you to receive offers, tips, resources, and schedules specific to Central Louisiana gardeners by signing up for the Sprout E-Newsletter.

Less than an hour from here is a quaint little village in Rapides Parish, Forest Hill, known as the nursery capitol of Louisiana because it offers a couple hundred from which to choose. This claim to fame has even gotten it featured in an article for Country Roads magazine. Another article in the Alexandria Town Talk you may find interesting talks about the local nursery that patented the crimson azalea, also one of the few licensed to grow the Southern Living magazine plant collection.

Flowers, plants, arts and crafts, food, and fun for the whole family, even including a carnival, can be found the third weekend of March at the Louisiana Nursery Festival.

If you find that you’ve really got a green thumb and have more vegetables and/or cut flowers than you know what to do with, well take them to a nearby Farmer’s Market!

Any way you grow, growing in Louisiana is tons of fun.