St. Mary Parish
St. Mary is an anomalous parish within an anomalous part of the country. Situated at the center of Louisiana’s Gulf Coast, it is surrounded by Cajun country. Yet, in the early 19th century its fertile soil attracted wealthy sugar cane planters: Anglo-Saxons who brought in large numbers of African slaves to work the land. As a result, it took on a character more typical of other places in the South. Besides sugar, seafood and the oil industry are a big part of St. Mary’s character. The parish’s largest municipality, Morgan City, does double duty hosting its annual Shrimp and Petroleum Festival. The parish also curtsies to its natural surroundings with an International Alligator Festival. Nature enthusiasts can experience it all directly at the Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge. Its cypress woods contain not only alligators but also exotic waterfowl and a healthy number of the endangered Louisiana black bear.