By Alexis Casnave, staff writer
Grand Isle has been a vacationer’s choice for years. While the island is still recovering after Hurricane Ida, the local businesses are eager for vacationers to return.
“We have a lot of people calling and they’re wanting to come back,” says Louise Lafont, head of Grand Isle’s tourist center.
Though Lafont says she is eager for tourists to return, she wants them to be aware of the Grand Isle they will be returning to. Debris still lines the sides of the roads, and homes are still missing roofs. Since the storm, Grand Isle State park has housed residents living in state-issued trailers, so it is currently closed to the public. However, visitors can still access the island’s main attraction: Grand Isle Beach, where people can swim, fish and relax.
Beginning in May, the island will resume hosting its annual events, such as the Tarpon Rodeo – one of Grand Isle’s biggest tourist attractions, attracting more than 20,000 people a year. For this year’s rodeo July 28 through July 30, Lafont says she will be happy to have even 10,000 people attend.
“People are upset all over Louisiana that we all got beat up for Ida, so they’re all ready to do something fun,” says Lafont. “It just brings so many people in.”
Rental houses on the island are slowly making their way back into business and preparing for future reservations. Pat Landry, owner of Landry’s House Bed and Breakfast, says his business is gradually returning to normal.
“Business is coming up, and we’ve got people ready to come back,” Landry says. “Tourists are interested in coming back for this summer, and I’ve got about 10 to 12 reservations so far.”
A few of Landry’s reservations are for visitors attending the Migratory Bird festival. The festival, which usually lasts two to three days, will only last one day this year on Saturday, April 23.
The Starfish, a restaurant known for its shrimp po-boys and seafood platters, reopened in January after closing its doors for several months post-Ida.
“Our kitchen is slowly getting back to normal but we’re still unable to do breakfast, which is something a lot of people like to come for,” says restaurant manager Michele Theriot.
Though Grand Isle is far from back to normal, the community has not stopped welcoming tourists back to the island, Lafont says.
“We want to be here, we love this place, and it helps when the tourists invest here because they love it also.”
— Louise Lafont