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Editor/Consulting Writer

A vividly-colored mural depicting the impact of the St. Landry Parish equine industry was unveiled Monday at the service road confluence of two major highways located east of Opelousas.

Members of the Central St. Landry Economic District and other city and elected officials appeared at the dedication ceremony which featured artwork designed by Jerome Ford and parish students who assisted him with the project.

C-SLEDD chairman Buddy Helton said the 15-foot-high mural which covers approximately 100 feet alongside a large oak tree located at the U.S. 190 and Interstate-49 junction, salutes the long term interest the parish has experienced with various aspects of the horse industry.

“St. Landry Parish was recently designated by the local state legislative delegation as the equine capital of the state. Horses have been a deep rooted and a major part of the parish whether it’s horse racing, trail riding, equestrian skills or rodeo competition,” Helton said on Tuesday during an interview.

The location of the $30,000 mural project, Helton said, is also significant.

“We placed it at what is the Acadiana area crossroads. Opelousas is also considered to be the gateway to Acadiana. Roads in all four directions lead to that spot. The oak tree has also long been a landmark for generations of people who have used it as a place where they obtained rides to and from campuses and as a meeting place. It just seems logical that the mural should be placed there,” said Helton.

Helton added that the project took longer to complete than originally expected.

“Overall it probably covered five months. The completion was delayed mainly due to the heat, which prevented work from being done over long periods,” Helton said.

Helton noted that the mural features the image of one parish resident with ties to the horse industry.

“If you look, you will notice one of the characters is Steve Duhon, a three-time national rodeo steer wrestling champion, who last year was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. I thought it was a tribute for someone who has been so important to horses in the parish,” Helton maintained.