Heart of Louisiana: The Jolly Inn

Published: Aug. 23, 2016 at 8:18 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 23, 2016 at 10:12 PM CDT
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HOUMA, LA (WVUE) - It has a big wooden dance floor with a live Cajun band a couple of days a week. Years ago, places like the Jolly Inn were common in South Louisiana. But the folks who operate the inn in Houma say this may be the only dance hall left between New Orleans and Lafayette. And that helps pull in both the locals and tourists.

"We've had one year we counted our guest book, and we had 49 different countries as well as 48 different states," said Sonia McNamara.

Sonia McNamara now runs the Jolly Inn, taking over for her father, Werlein Prosperie, who loved to play music, first the trumpet in the high school band, and then accordion with a band called Couche Couche.

"We were playing all kinds of music, but basically we covered our butts with Cajun music," Prosperie said.

This Jolly Inn opened in 1998. But it's named after another dance hall near Houma where they were dancing more than a half century ago. The original place closed years ago, but it was a big part of Prosperie's life.

"My father spent many, many, many nights and evenings with his parents at the Jolly Inn because kids could enter a dance hall where the parents were dancing," McNamara said. "He even played the guitar and sang at the Jolly Inn."

"I come when the line dancers come," said Marian Breaux.

Breaux, who grew up even further down the bayou, spent a lot of time in her father's dance hall in Dulac.

"We served the tables, we served the crabs," she said. "My mother would count them and we would serve them."

She can name a half-dozen dance halls she remembers from her youth. All of those places, including her father's, are gone.

"He had the best dance floor in this area," Breaux said. "He built it himself and he waxed it and he made sure that the dance floor was danceable, because he loved to dance."

The live Cajun bands can still pack the dance floor with a Cajun two step, waltzes, line dances and some familiar swamp pop.

"The comeraderie, the smiles, the kindness, the music, toe tapping. Just good old things that the old Cajuns used to do," McNamara said.

A little piece of the past lives on at the Jolly Inn, and there is live music and dancing on Friday night and Sunday afternoon.

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