KINDER — The Kinder Welcome Center expansion will soon shine a spotlight on local musicians, veterans and the Coushatta Indians.
Allen Parish Tourist Commission Executive Director Adagria Haddock said the expansion is part of new plans for the center, which will include a Louisiana swamp scene and a museum featuring music and videos from area musicians, along with a Coushatta Tribe heritage exhibit.
The center, located on U.S. 165, just north of Kinder, is also working to develop a Cajun prairie with native grass, wildflowers and plants. It will expand its wall of honor, featuring sketches of more than 130 area veterans from the Civil War to the present.
“These are all things that are unique to our area, and we want to focus on our new promotion theme of ‘Allen Parish: Step Into Cajun Country,’” Haddock said.
It’s the center’s first major expansion since it opened in 2002.
The swamp scene will feature a 7-foot alligator, a nutria, birds and other native creatures with a pond and scenic backdrop.
The focal point of the expansion will depict a bar scene with a television playing music and videos from notable Cajun, zydeco, swamp pop and blues musicians from the region, including Beau Jocque, Willis Prudhomme, Bernie Alan, Keith Frank, JoJo Reed and Katie Webster.
“We are working on getting the names, music and videos from musicians who were born or lived in Allen Parish at some time,” Haddock said.
“Louisiana is known for its food and music, and we want to honor our musicians. They are who we are, and we want to honor them and their music.”
Other plans for the expansion include a special exhibit spotlighting the language, people and culture of the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana.
Haddock is hoping the expansion will attract more visitors to the area.
“Our mission statement is to get heads in beds,” she said. “And hopefully with these additional attractions, it will give tourists more reasons to stay an extra night.”
The parish now has 13 hotels and five recreational vehicle parks.
Brochures and rack displays will be added to the center for visitors, and new tourist information for the parish will soon be distributed to area hotels.
The center also hopes to expand its hours in the future to assist more tourists, many traveling the Myths and Legends Byway through the parish.
Haddock hopes to have the expansion completed by the end of the year.
The expansion project is being funded by a capital improvement grant from local hotel and motel taxes and a grant from BP.