Folks in Kenilworth say their "welcome" mat is always out…. I found out first hand that couldn't be truer. Located in the heart of South Baton Rouge , Kentilworth is gem among several well established subdivisions. Two castles pillar the entrance of Kentilworth and are reminiscent of its English roots, distinguishing the neighborhood from all the others. However, it's the way Kentilworth welcomes the entire Baton Rouge community several times throughout the year that makes it so unique.
Kenilworth is home to more than 800 families and two of the city's biggest holiday celebrations. It's one of the only Baton Rouge neighborhoods that can boast to hosting one of the city's largest parades. Each year the Kenilworth Fourth of July parade draws in hundreds of people to celebrate our nation's birthday. The sea of red, white and blue is a real sight to see.
"People line the sidewalks of Kenilworth all the way down the main drag. The crowds are 8-to-10 people deep," says Kenilworth Civic Association President Larry Celestine. "Everyone really looks forward to it. It's one big party."
While you can expect to see an array of floats and convertibles with everything from boy scouts to politicians, there is also an element of surprise among the parade procession. Unveiled at the big event is the neighborhood's "Resident of the Year." Each year the civic association board recognizes the resident who they feel has actively contributed the most to Kenilworth. Past civic association president Maurine Malone says it's truly an honor. Maurine would know, she took the award home the year before last.
"It's such an honor because there are so many good people that work so hard all the time," says Maurine. "To be recognized like that is something that I'm extremely proud of and will remember forever."
The celebration continues long after the parade at the Kenilworth Clubhouse and park, where a picnic awaits. Armed with lawn chairs and blankets, residents take to the park for a mandatory good time. Kids can be found splashing in the pool, while a serious game of tennis is in play nearby.
Another holiday event that packs the streets of Kenilworth is the Christmas Luminaries. It's amazing what can be created from a few paper bags, some sand, lights and a little hard work. I'm sorry, make that a lot of paper bags, lights and a competitive drive among neighbors to outdo each other and you get one of the most extraordinary Christmas light displays in Baton Rouge. The luminaries and lights slowly start popping up shortly after Thanksgiving. Sometime in mid-December the winners are announced.
"Residents walk the neighborhood to see the lights and visit," says Celestine. "Traffic is at a crawl with onlookers trying to get a peek at the lights. Carolers make their way around singing. It's a lot of fun, when everyone can get involved."
All that fun takes lots of planning and volunteering from residents. That's something Jerald Juneaux says has always been abundantly present in Kenilworth. Juneaux moved into Kenilworth in 1972, the same year the Kenilworth Civic Association was formed. During that time he has served as civic association president an unprecedented five times.
"We have so much community involvement from our residents. We've always had so many people, who are more than willing to volunteer," says Juneaux. "There's a tremendous closeness and friendship that develops, which is the very spirit of Kenilworth."
It's the kind of neighborhood that if you fall on hard times, your neighbors are there to help you out. But the essence of Kentilworth was probably best described by an elderly lady I met, who was walking her dog. I asked her if she was a resident of Kentilworth and with a big grin on her face she proudly told me "Yes, I am." The woman, whom I'll call Mrs. R, moved to the area a little over 7 years ago. With the recent death of her husband and her five children scattered all over the United States, you would think she was all alone. That's quiet the contrary.
"We're like a big family. Everyone helps each other," says Mrs. R. "My neighbors check on me. I feel safe and at home here."