On Wednesday, April 17, the Science Center hosted Riverfest, a Spring Event sponsored by the American Landscape course connections. This course connections network, as summarized on its home page, “examines the changing American landscape in reality and imagination.” Professors Lynette Carpenter, Nancy Gamso, Frank Hobbs, David Johnson, Jeff Nilan, Nancy Murray, Karen Poremski, Barbara Terzian, and David Walker were all in attendance. Gamso had selected a playlist rich in classical Jazz and Blues with the addition of some traditional Bluegrass-themed hits. Participants included students taking the American Landscape course connection itself, students who were taking a class offered by a professor involved in the course connections, students who had happened by and got caught up in the excitement and a bevy of faculty and staff who wanted to see more of what their colleagues had been working on.
Chartwells, Ohio Wesleyan’s designated catering service, supplied a wonderful set up with some popular New Orleans’s dishes. There were sandwiches, called muffulettas, which are known for their delicious olive-spread. There were virgin daiquiris and hurricanes, styled after the ever popular drinks that are readily consumed on the hot afternoons in New Orleans. And the best of all were the beignets. Styled after the famous Café Du Monde (an actual café in New Orleans) the powdered sugar covered pastries were hard to turn down. A mixed-berry syrup had been prepared to drizzle over the doughnut-like dessert.
Once the participants had eaten their fill of the native foods, the games began. The first step was to form a group of about five and, after having been given a map of the Mississippi River with select spot labeled and some fact sheets, search for the locations on the tape-created river that corresponded with the numbers indicated on the sheets. The students taped these sheets to the ground and then recollected. From here out the competition began. Each team was given a question sheet and had to find the correct answers by scoring the fact sheets that were all around the atrium. Questions included topics such as, “What is the derivation of the name, “Mississippi?” and “What kind of river craft is depicted in a famous painting by John Caleb Bingham?” The team that completed their sheet first received authentic Mardi Gras masks as a reward.
T-shirts including each department included in the American Landscape course connection were designed by Nilan and supplied to each participant. Included departments are: English, Music, History, Geology/Geography, Fine Arts, Religion, and Botany-Microbiology. Though the course connection is not specific to New Orleans, the professors heading this connection visited New Orleans over Spring Break and wanted to share with OWU students their recently-obtained experiences. Murray described some of the designated stops along the way, such as some amazing art museums and crawfish and rice farms. She went on to explain some of the most common crops found there. “New Orleans is famous for its production of rice, cotton, and pecans. It also has great conditions for banana growth and it is very common for people there to grow them in their courtyards!”
She and the other professors were also impressed by the rich Cajun culture that they experienced there. Gamso taught some modern Cajun dance moves to the eager crowd awaiting instruction. The students picked up the moves pretty quickly, hopping from one foot to the next in rapid succession, keeping in tandem to the rhythmic blues playing on around them.
This was a great experience for not only students taking the course connection, but also for anyone interested in the diverse and historic nature of the Mississippi River and the spectacular cities that lie alongside it.