Ah, Memorial Day. It signals the end of school for students everywhere and the beginning of backyard cookouts, as well as sales, sleeping in and an extra day off. Since it’s the most traveled weekend on the calendar except for Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July, society comes to a standstill.

In fact, Memorial Day’s date has been finessed over the years to create a convenient four-day respite for Americans, although the original purpose was to remember those that have fallen while in military service.

So if it’s OK, let’s leave the party for a moment and reflect on why we can party at all.

Americans pay a high price for democracy on a regular basis and one day is a small sacrifice in memory of those who fight so we don’t have to. Their courage in the extreme, a large standing army and a free press are what keep tyranny off the doorstep.

My job as a columnist is a privilege and honor because it represents the basic American rights of free speech and open discussion. Those rights are hard-won and so are yours.

But while you’re at it, drink a beer in honor of the first female class allowed to enter Army Ranger School. Senior Army leaders recently decided to let women attend the grueling, historically male-only, infantry course.

The video footage I saw captured one female Ranger candidate slinging her male counterpart across her shoulders, shouting, “I’ve got you!” as she carried him through the mud to safety. It was straight out of G.I. Jane, but for real this time.

Rangers lead the way, ladies.

And a Happy Memorial Day to everyone.

‘Coton Jaune’ Premiere

Filmgoers packed the Performance Center at Vermilionville long before the start time for the world premiere of “Coton Jaune,” a documentary by Suzanne Breaux and Sharon Gordon Donnan.

After a brief history of La Grande Dérangement, narrated by quintessential Cajun Zachary Richard, those still not seated willingly stood for the oral histories of Acadians remembering their mothers and grandmothers weaving much more than just brown cotton blankets — it was the continuation of a way of life from mother to daughter.

Elderly subjects lent a listen-before-it’s-too-late quality to the film, and paying rapt attention were Kentucky University textile expert Robert Haven, local feature filmmaker Pat Mire, Bayou Vermilion District CEO David Cheramie, designer Raoul Blanco, Sea Shepherd Bonny Schumaker, Penny Edwards and Jennifer LeBlanc, attending on behalf of the Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture.

“He was disappointed he couldn’t be here,” said LeBlanc, “but he won’t be out of the legislature until after six.”

Clementine Hunter Book signing

Renowned folk art collector Richard Gasperi and curator Bradley Sumrall from the Ogden Museum of Southern Art came to the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum to present their work: “Clementine Hunter: A Sketchbook.”

The book consists of 26 previously unpublished oil-on-paper works of Hunter and is presented in partnership with the Hilliard Society, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Becky and Wyatt Collins, and Bobbye Carraway of Gulfport, Mississippi.

UAM director LouAnne Greenwald was happy to partner with the Ogden and get out her museum’s own Clementine Hunters, and among those happy to view them was Pam Stroud, fellow Clementine owners Renee Roberts and Betty Lowry, and Pat Olson.

“I was just minding my own business at the Ogden when I met this gentleman who kindly showed me the vault,” said Becky Collins of first meeting Gasperi.

“Actually, she pushed her way into an exhibit that wasn’t yet open,” joked Sumrall, who’s certainly glad she did. “I hope this work inspires everyone.”

The self-taught Hunter was the first African-American artist to have a solo exhibition at the Ogden. “What I like about self-taught artists is they don’t care what you think, they’re going to do art their way,” said Gasperi. “I’ve always dreamed of getting this sketchbook out.”

Patricia Gannon covers society for The Acadiana Advocate. She can be reached at pgannon@cmaildrop.com or at pgannon@theadvocate.com.