by Lexcie Lewis, Special Sections Editor
When summertime rolls around, locals head to their home away from home, Grand Isle. Louisiana isn’t known for having many beaches so whether it’s fishing, camping or just laying out by the water, the small island of less than 800 residents is the ultimate Cajun getaway.
“I love coming here because even with a large family, everyone can be together the entire vacation unlike at a resort, says Elsie Dabie who has been visiting the island for over 20 years. “You can finally put your phones down and just enjoy each other’s company.”
Grand Isle is a family friendly vacation spot where all the locals go. Large groups or families can rent a camp, which is just a house that’s on stilts to avoid flooding. While many local families own their own camps, others rent them out to locals and tourists. Camps can range from a two bedroom to an eight-bedroom house, which is perfect for large families.
“I ended up coming for vacation and staying permanently,” says Ronnie Sampey, a Grand Isle resident of more than 35 years. “I eventually built my own camp and I rent it out during the summer.”
Golf carts can also be rented and be used as the main vehicle. Grand Isle passed an ordinance in 2014 allowing people to drive golf carts on the road as a vehicle.
Grand Isle Tourism Commissioner Louise Lafont says they’ve wanted to allow golf carts on the roads for a long time. “It’s hard for families, especially with small children to get from one place to another. Having golf carts makes it easier for families to load up the kids and go. The beach is across the street so you don’t have to lug your stuff back and forth.”
Lafont says her main goal is to make everyone feel welcomed. She’s not originally from Grand Isle she grew up in Caminada, a town next to Grand Isle. She slowly fell in love with the island and is now a permanent resident. She says that she has a special place in her heart for every visitor, especially the “snowbirds,” or what locals call people from colder northern states that visit Grand Isle and become locals themselves. Twenty-three percent of the population was once a tourist that has since decided to stay.
“No matter where you’re from you’re like family to me,” she says. “I’m going to treat you that way and I never forget a face.”
Louise makes sure that having each guest that comes on the island sign a guestbook. This allows her to meet each guest personally and keep in touch with them beyond their stay. If a guest needs anything even just someone to talk to she’s right there.
“My life is forever changed by these people.” She says. “I have friends from as far as Canada that have influenced me and made me love this job even more.
Grand Isle is much more than just an island, it’s home to people for hundreds of years, people who have lived off the land and water, raising their families and creating a unique culture together.