When culture meets heritage Juneteenth Festival coincides with the inauguration of Top Notch Creole Creations – L’Observateur
LAPLACE – Culture, heritage and community converge as the second annual Juneteenth festival coincides with the official opening of the Top Notch Creole Creations restaurant at 975 Cambridge Drive in LaPlace.
The Juneteeth Festival and Grand Opening Celebration will take place from 2-8 p.m. on Sunday, June 19. The public is invited to join in a “Gospel Extravaganza” honoring a pioneer in the religious community of St. John the Baptist Parish. The event will also feature a live band, merchant vendors, African dancers and traditional Creole dishes.
Kita Harry, owner of Top Notch Creole Creations, wants the festival to grow every year.
“We have to know where we come from and the many opportunities we have now, and we have to take advantage of those opportunities. We need to know our history and how far we’ve come as a black community,” Harry said. “Every year the festival will be bigger and better because it gives us the opportunity to come together and discover our heritage. It’s a way to reconnect, have fun, and revitalize the community after all that’s happened.
Kita Harry hosted the first Top Notch Juneteenth festival at LaPlace in 2021. The event honored all 40 retireese Judicial District Judge Madeline Jasmine as a pioneer in the local African-American community who broke down barriers in the justice system. The event coincided with the opening of Harry’s food truck.
Opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant was a long-term goal that came to fruition much sooner than expected when an opportunity arose in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. It was also an opportunity for Harry’s mother, Karen Gordon Williams, to retire from her 30-year career on construction sites and become head chef for Top Notch Creole Creations.
Much like the Juneteenth Festival, Top Notch Creole Creations restaurant’s time-tested recipes are rooted in tradition. Each delicious dish continues the legacy of Harry’s late grandmother, Rosemary Gordon.
“A lot of the recipes come from my grandmother. Of the whole family, my mother cooks the most like her,” Harry said.
Williams grew up as a baby in a family of 16 children. To this day, she remembers sitting in the kitchen as a child and watching her mother cook dinner on the stove. Years later, Williams was the young mother cooking the same recipes for her children.
Rosemary Gordon died aged 85 in 2005, but now the community of St. John the Baptist Parish knows what it’s like to sit in her kitchen and enjoy a home-cooked meal.
“Everyone here in the LaPlace area hears about it and comes. This is where the good food is. That’s what everyone says,” Williams said.
Top Notch Creole Creations opened in May 2022 with daily lunch specials including red beans and rice, chicken stew, smothered cabbage with cornbread, fried fish, dirty rice, turkey necks and more. The restaurant is currently open from 10.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday.
“I’m delighted that this year we will have a menu regarding Juneteeth,” Williams said. “We will have fresh okra, mustard greens, oxtail and all the vegetables are fresh from the garden. I do nothing from the freezer.
Food, music and faith have been central to the black community for generations, even during slavery and the era of reconstruction that followed.
Harry chose gospel as the central theme for the second annual Juneteeth festival because the church played a major role in his journey.
“The church has introduced me to many people I look up to and who have contributed to my current situation,” she said.
For more information on vendors or to participate in the second annual Juneteenth Festival, contact Harry at 504-352-0261.