The inaugural Louisiana Food & Wine Festival, hosted by Visit Lake Charles, delighted more than 3,000 attendees, including first-time visitors from 14 states, Canada, and Prince Edward Island. Held at Bord Du Lac Park in downtown Lake Charles, the festival featured various food, wine, spirits and beer. Visitors like Kristin and Joe Tyminski from Illinois explored the community, golfed at local courses, and dined at local restaurants, including 1910, The Bekery and The Max in Westlake.  

“I love Lake Charles. It’s a great destination,” said Tyminski. 

She added that the couple found value in their Southwest Louisiana adventure: “The prices were so reasonable everywhere we went.”

Kristin and Joe Tyminski at local golf course
Kristin and Joe Tyminski at local golf course

Attendees savored more than 400 pounds of shrimp, 200 pounds of crawfish and 100 pounds of fish. They also enjoyed over 1,800 bottles of wine and 200 cases of beer and spirits. 

Local Impact—Paul’s Rib Shack Barbecue

Paul’s Rib Shack Barbecue received festivalgoers and potential future ‘RibListers’—the nickname given to regular customers. Owner Paul Pettefer emphasized the festival’s positive impact on local businesses, saying, “I visited with multiple people, during the festival, who make their way to Lake Charles periodically, and I think they will come to eat at our place because of the festival.” 

The barbecue joint’s offerings of Cochon de Lait, smoked alligator and beef rib mac cups topped with crab were crowd favorites. Petterfer and his team took home the Best Taste Award for Best Meat.  

“Guests, or customers, are like rain that fills a bucket for a business. Visitors are an extra shower of blessing to the community,” said Pettefer. “Hosting a premier event, like the Louisiana Food & Wine Festival, is a concentration of this effect, a soaking shower, if you will, delivering additional nourishment to all of us, Paul’s Rib Shack included. Tourism is a vital part of the success of my business, so keep bringing the heat Visit Lake Charles.” 

SOWELA Impact—Student Chefs 

SOWELA Culinary Arts students had a unique opportunity at the festival to cook alongside and learn from culinary superstars, fulfilling a dream for first-year chef Lionel Gilbert.  

“It’s kind of hard to explain, but the best way I can describe it is as if you’re taking a trip to somewhere you have dreamed of going as a child, and once you are there, you smile, take it all in and enjoy the moment,” said Gilbert. 

The budding chef acted as sous chef at the festival’s Louisiana-Inspired Master Classes, including the Mastering Creole Cooking class with Chef Edgar “Dook” Chase IV.  

SOWELA Chef and Instructor Josh Dutton expressed gratitude for the partnership with the festival and said it provided students with “invaluable professional training and memories to last a lifetime.” 

SOWELA Culinary Arts first-year student chef Lionel Gilbert - Candy Rodriguez
SOWELA Culinary Arts first-year student chef Lionel Gilbert.

Podcast First Anniversary

Visit Lake Charles celebrated the first anniversary of its podcast, “Louisiana’s Playground.”  

The podcast, hosted by Visit Lake Charles Director of Content/Video Marketing Brady Renard, has highlighted the best of Lake Charles through its people, businesses and experiences across 28 regular and five special episodes. The podcast is an auditory guide for listeners looking to build their own Lake Charles itinerary. 

With over 5,200 listens across 25 countries, “Louisiana’s Playground” also contains “Envie Eats,” a segment highlighting local cuisine. It has featured restaurants like Darrell’s Famous Po'boys and Lebleu’s Landing Cajun Restaurant. 

Every other week, there is a new episode to enjoy. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts to hear from locals sharing some of the best-kept secrets in Southwest Louisiana. 

Brady Renard sits at a table with podcast equipment in front of him ready to start the podcast
"Louisiana's Playground" host Brady Renard

New Hires, Promotion

Visit Lake Charles welcomed two new team members this month: Candy Rodriguez as Director of Communications and Madison Yates as Destination Services Specialist. Toni Chapman was promoted to Digital Content Manager. 

Rodriguez will lead communication efforts, including Just Imagine SWLA. Yates will coordinate services for visiting groups and partner education. Chapman will manage digital channels and coordinate digital projects, emphasizing Southwest Louisiana’s best offerings. 

Here's a full look at September's Tourism Works published in the American Press.



About Visit Lake Charles:   
Visit Lake Charles, the official destination marketing organization for Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana, is the only organization in Southwest Louisiana providing advocacy, promotion, and education for the tourism industry. For more information on Visit Lake Charles and things to see and do in Louisiana’s Playground, log on to