Three In One
09/04/2018 01:14PM ● Published by Robert Frey
The New Iberia Historic District PassBy Hailey Hensgens Fleming
Everyone knows the South for its distinct heritage, southern hospitality and charm. Within Acadiana, however, that charm is amplified thanks to our many historic landmarks, rich agricultural legacy and dedication to preserving the past. Some tourist attractions and historic sites have become a part of the scenery for several of those who live here, but many have yet to be discovered, by tourists and locals, alike. In New Iberia, the newly introduced Historic District Pass hopes to remedy that problem by bringing new attention to three of the hidden gems within the area that makes up downtown New Iberia’s Nationally Registered Historic District.
The New Iberia Historic District Pass was debuted in early July and combines admission for three local attractions into one at a discounted rate. Instead of purchasing separate tickets at each location, visitors can purchase a pass online and gain admission to the Shadows on the Teche, the Conrad Rice Mill and the Bayou Teche Museum. By bundling admission into one pass, with an added savings of at least 20 percent, organizers hope to draw in more tourists and increase foot traffic in the area.
Visitors can spend a day exploring downtown New Iberia, beginning by stepping back in time with a tour of the Shadows on the Teche. They can get to know the Weeks family, wealthy sugar planters who built and lived in the home for four generations and owned 300 slaves on the eve of the Civil War. Next, take a stroll down historic Main Street, recently named one of Country Living’s “Twenty-Three Best Small Town Main Streets in America” and stop in at the Bayou Teche Museum. Visitors can explore the rich history, culture and industry of the region surrounding the Bayou Teche with interactive exhibits spanning from the time of the Attakapas and Chitimacha Tribes to current day. Stop for lunch at one of the local eateries and marvel at the ancient oak trees lining Historic Main. Finally, finish up at the Conrad Rice Mill, the oldest operating rice mill in America. A short film on the history of Acadiana will get you started before you tour the mill and end in the Konriko Company Store.
The idea for these passes was presented by Jayd Buteaux, the marketing and programs manager at the Shadows on the Teche. After seeing it successfully attract new visitors to historic homes during her time in North Carolina, Buteaux was eager to enact the new policy in her hometown of New Iberia upon her return. “Shortly after I started here, there were discussions of visitation,” Buteaux recalls. “We knew people were going out to Avery Island, so how could we potentially get those same people to come downtown? Or, how can we get visitors, in general, to realize that New Iberia has this beautiful Historic Downtown District?”
With the support of her Director and the Iberia Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau, Buteaux began working to turn the idea into a reality. She reached out to the Conrad Rice Mill and the Bayou Teche Museum, both of which were excited about the new opportunity. Marcia Patout, the Museum Director, recounts, “She [Buteaux] asked if we’d like to join and we said, ‘absolutely!’ Any promotion like that we’re happy to be a part of.”
Although the process took longer than anticipated, the Historic District passes were finally available in mid-summer and those involved have great expectations for the part it could play in efforts to bring business back to the area. “We’re hoping that once word spreads it will increase visitation at all three of these attractions in New Iberia,” explains Buteaux. “If we increase visitation to these three sites then we’re increasing downtown foot traffic and if you do that then you’re increasing the number of people that are shopping and eating downtown. So, the hope is that it will have this domino effect.”
Patout is excited about the new visitors the District Pass will bring to the doors of the Museum. “People always go to the Shadows because it’s the most well-known, but this will bring them to us. It will bring in those people that might not usually go the extra two blocks downtown to find us,” she states. Likewise, those at the Conrad Rice Mill are thrilled about the prospect of new visitors, but are hoping, specifically, to increase local participation. “We’re trying to get more local people involved, to come see who we are and what the town’s all about and we think that’s what this program can do,” says Mike Davis, President and owner of Conrad Rice Mill. The timely arrival of the District Passes will coincide with their new efforts to connect with the community, like the Vendor’s Market to be held September 15 from 9 am to 3pm in the Konriko parking lot. “The whole idea is to get people to come to see us here, local people,” adds Davis. “They all know about us and they’ve heard of us, but unless they have some out of town visitors, they just don’t think to come.”
Although only in use for two short months, the passes have already proven effective, as all locations have noted a boost in foot traffic. When asked about that increase at the Mill, Davis responds, “Our business has been a little stronger than we thought it’d be - historically. So, yeah, it’s definitely working.” Likewise, the Museum noticed a few more visitors than normal. “Yes, we have noticed more foot traffic - surprisingly so,” noted Patout. Little has been done to advertise the passes, as there are a few flaws still to be worked out, making these initial results very promising.
For now, visitors who wish to purchase the Historic District Pass must do so in advance via www.showclix.com. There, they can choose their price level and purchase a pass. After purchase, three tickets will be printed to be presented for entry at each corresponding location. Buteaux explains that a way to purchase the tickets in-person is still in the works, “We’re currently trying to determine the best way to sell them here, so the hope is that in the next few months we’ll also be able to offer them for purchase [in-person].” Users should also note the Historic District Passes can be used Thursday through Saturday of any given week.
Although there is still work to be done on the project, Buteaux remains excited about the impact the Historic District Pass can have on her city. She states, “This is something that’s taken a lot of time and we’re hoping it will be good for us and it will be good for the community because we have so much to offer to all of our visitors from all over.”