When the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival was founded 50 years ago, among the traditions organizers wanted to celebrate were second-line parades. As the founder of Ladies of Unity, an all-female second-line club that started 14 years ago, Wynoka Boudreaux is part of that tradition.
"I never thought I could start one myself," said Boudreaux, who was already in a club, but says, diplomatically, that there was drama. "I like peace," she said.
"One of my neighbors was like, 'Why don't you start one?'" she recalled."So I put one together, and we've been rolling ever since."
The club stands out for its visuals and craftsmanship. Their feathered fans, walking sticks, sashes and umbrellas are created with new designs and colors every year.
And for the past 13 years, during the first weekend of Jazz Fest at the Louisiana Folklife Village, Boudreaux and club members have demonstrated how they make the festive items.
Ribbon, crystals, sequins and feathers are among Boudreaux’s tools of the trade. It takes up to two hours to make a fan, she said. “You put the feathers on, cover it and trim it and you’re done.” Walking sticks take longer, depending on size.
Taking center stage is Boudreaux’s bow machine. She has a reputation for making the best bows for second-line accoutrements.
“We were just blown away by her skills,” said Virginia Saussy, co-founder of NOLA Craft Culture, a craft store, school and maker space for folk artists and crafters. Saussy met Boudreaux when they were in the same Jazz Fest tent, with Saussy representing Krewe of Muses and demonstrating the glittering techniques for the group’s famed shoes, a prized throw during Carnival.
“We were so mesmerized,” Saussy said. “She inspired us and is the perfect example of what we (at NOLA Craft Culture) tell people about sharing culture and talent.”
Boudreaux is discussing teaching classes there, as well as selling the items she has made, which would be a boon for second-line aficionados, as Boudreaux admits to throwing items away after they're used in a second-line.
“My house would get so cluttered,” said Boudreaux.
She also has to find time — and space for materials — to create a suit as the Big Queen of the Golden Eagles Mardi Gras Indians. Her father, Monk Boudreaux, is the Big Chief.
For now, Boudreaux is concentrating on the Jazz Fest demonstration and creating items for the club’s upcoming second-line, Oct. 20, which moved this year from an earlier date. Jazz Fest attendees, however, will get a sneak peek on Friday afternoon, when the Ladies of Unity will second-line through the crowds at the New Orleans Fair Grounds.
Wynoka Boudreaux, Ladies of Unity
Louisiana Folklife Village, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell
First weekend of Jazz Fest (April 26-28)
The club will parade with the Free Spirit Brass Band, Zulu Go Getters and Big Nine Social Aid & Pleasure Club on Fri. April 26 at the festival, 3:15 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.
Throughout Jazz Fest, there are second-lines and Mardi Gras Indian processions. Clike here to find out on the Jazz Fest schedule.