Main and Mulberry Podcast – Shalisa Roland, Shreveport-Bossier CTB

Shalisa Roland and Shreveport-Bossier’s CTB has hit #PressPlay on this “Sportsman’s Paradise.” An opportune getaway for families and nearcationing couples, this destination has downtown casinos, horse races, and a lively art space. There is so much to see and do when exploring this section of Louisiana nestled along the borders of Texas and Arkansas. There’s also no shortage of culture to experience. Shalisa boasts “we have king-cake-flavored everything!”

Transcript:

Anna Bell:

Hello and welcome to another episode of Main and Mulberry. I’m your host Anna Bell. And today I’m really excited to have with us Shalisa Roland, the Public Relations and Digital Content Manager for the Shreveport Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau. Shalisa, thanks so much for taking the time to be with us today.

Shalisa Roland:

Thank you so much. It feels so good to be considered, such a great destination. I can’t wait to tell everything about it.

Anna Bell:

I can’t wait to learn about it all too. It’s going to be fun. We’re going to have fun. So, you know, for those of us, our listeners who have not yet had the opportunity to visit with you, can you tell us about where you’re located in Louisiana?

Shalisa Roland:

Yes. So we’re actually located in the Northwest Louisiana. We tend to rest on the Arkatex, and if you’re not familiar with that term, it’s Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas where they intersect. Yeah. And so we’re pretty much the biggest city from maybe like a three mile radius. We’re about three hours away from Dallas and things of that such. So we claim a lot of this territory and the culture here also reflects that.

Anna Bell:

Oh, that’s awesome. Oh, I love hearing that. So you’re, you’re in a really good spot then. So anybody kind of in bordering those states can get to you relatively easily.

Shalisa Roland:

Absolutely.

Anna Bell:

That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Maybe you can tell us a little about yourself Shalisa, as we kind of kick things off. What are your responsibilities at the Bureau, and are you from the area?

Shalisa Roland:

Actually not from the area. I’m originally from East Texas. Nacadocious Texas.

Anna Bell:

Okay.

Shalisa Roland:

And that’s my hometown. I graduated high school there, and I applied for school in all different states. I just wanted to get out and kind of explore. And the first place that accepted me was LSU Shreveport.

Anna Bell:

Okay.

Shalisa Roland:

I came here and I thought I’d fallen in love with the area. I got into tourism. And here I am. I don’t think I’ve ever had a job that truly shined a light on my natural capabilities and my talents. So as the PR, I’m sorry, Public Relations and Digital Content Manager, a lot of things that I do, it’s my job to sell Shreveport Bossier as a destination, if you will. The selling portion of sells itself, honestly, because we are a unique location. So that’s everything between press releases, marketing initiatives to doing media tours with local influencers and regional influencers, digital content. So I do a lot of the blogging and website development and so on, but I also think that it’s just Shreveport Bossier, but I also cover the rural areas. So it’s a [inaudible] and Bossier Parish. So Louisiana long history behind the reason why we don’t have counties, we have parishes.

Anna Bell:

Wow. Wow, see, we’re learning a little history right now, and we’re learning that as long as you’ve got your computer or your phone in front of you, you’re busy, right?

Shalisa Roland:

Oh yes.

Anna Bell:

You’re busy. I love it. I also love hearing about your journey that, you know, once you got to the Shreveport, Bossier area, you kind of found that place to be like home and you stayed. That’s really cool. I love hearing that. You know, I saw something really fun on the Shreveport Bossier website, saying hashtag press play SB. Maybe you can tell us a little bit more about what that means.

Shalisa Roland:

Absolutely. So we actually started this campaign this summer, and it was a campaign to help combat all of the kinda like the negativity and the, the strike that tourism hit, the strike that tourism took amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Anna Bell:

Right.

Shalisa Roland:

And the idea behind it all was that everybody’s life was put on pause. Now you can press play in Shreveport Bossier. And it can mean anything from continuing to try these restaurants, because they’re doing everything properly and abiding by the guidelines, or get outdoors. We have a lot of different things. North Louisiana is definitely sportsman’s paradise. Whatever PressPlay looks like for you, we have something for you in Shreveport Bossier.

Anna Bell:

That is so cool. I love that twist, you know, to just see the silver lining. There are still things that are going on where you can be safe and still have a good time. Even though, you know, like you said, this year has been topsy turvy, and it’s thrown us all for a loop, especially those, you know, in your field. Have you had to really get creative this year? I’m sure you’ve had to kind of really think outside the box.

Yeah. We’ve had to rethink a lot of the ways that we do anything.

Anna Bell:

And so content, content never changes. Right? Content, you can stretch, you can throw it across the room and you’ll reach everybody it’s supposed to, you know?

Anna Bell:

Yeah.

Shalisa Roland:

Content creation, just really honing in on that has been our pivot plan for this year. It hasn’t been as difficult as I projected, but I’ve noticed that when we were given a little bit to work with in a room full of creatives, [inaudible]

Anna Bell:

That’s right. That light bulb comes on, right? Yes. And you can get things moving. I love to hear that. Wow. You know, I have read that the Shreveport Bossier area is the perfect “near cation” getaway. I think that’s the funnest thing. You know, if you’re not looking to make a big travel plans, especially with everything going on this year, I think that’s such a cute spin, a “near cation” get away. Let’s talk about all the wonderful amenities and attractions you guys have starting with your riverboat casinos. You know, that’s something that’s not everybody has.

Shalisa Roland:

I agree. We have five casinos total, and we have a Racino as well. And so they have done everything to abide by all of the guidelines to stay open, to stay afloat.

Anna Bell:

Ah, look at that.

Shalisa Roland:

You see what I did there?

Anna Bell:

I did.

Shalisa Roland:

To stay afloat during these difficult times. And I feel like that’s your one stop shop. You can stay there and if you’re over 21 you can play there and you can drink there. You can do all of these different things. All of them are in really great locations. There are two of them in downtown Shreveport. And so we have the entire downtown area where you can eat, play, and just kinda do your own thing. Right? You can even go sightseeing in some of the musems. It’s even great for children. Like if you want to bring your family out or the popular term “bae vacation.” If you’re, if you and your spouse are out and about, and you want to grab drinks, you can go explore.

Anna Bell:

Let’s do that. Yeah. That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Okay. And you said five casinos though. So if you get two downtown, kind of tell us where the other three are.

Shalisa Roland:

Okay. Yeah. So there’s a, so there’s two in downtown Shreveport and there’s two in Bossier. It’s like the central location of Bossier a little bit. And so there’s one that’s located on the boardwalk, that’s Margaritaville, and one that’s located near the East Bank District, which is an up and coming district with a lot of restaurants and things to do up there.

Anna Bell:

Okay.

Shalisa Roland:

And so it’s all in close proximity. And then we have Diamond Jack’s that’s right up the street, and then the Racino is here, it’s Harrah’s Louisiana Downs. And so this is bucket list worthy. If you never betted on a horse race.

Anna Bell:

I was about to say. Look girl, you’re taking the words out of my mouth because that is one thing I’ve had on my bucket list to attend a horse race. And I’ve never done that. And I would love to come and visit and experience that, I’m sure heart-pounding thrill of live horse racing. Have you ever been before?

Shalisa Roland:

And it’s so cool how the community and the staff kind of comes together to kind of teach you the ways, but so like if you already know the ropes, you can you can elevate your experience and get like a skybox viewing. Yeah you can go outside and have fun, have a drink and just kind of watch your money take off right in front.

Anna Bell:

Literally. Oh, I love that. How fun. I know that has to be a really an experience, you know, and, and like you said, that is kind of an outdoor sport, right? You can be outside and kind of safely distance too. You know, amid everything going on this year, has the 2020, you know, racing season, was that affected by the pandemic at all?

Shalisa Roland:

Don’t think so. I haven’t actually communicated with Harrah’s to get the numbers particular.

Anna Bell:

Sure, sure. I was wondering if it was able to continue, but you know, so many things.

Shalisa Roland:

Yeah. It’s been fine because a lot of the times the races are live. You can stream them. And so I think that they wouldn’t be affected half as much.

Anna Bell:

Oh yeah. Oh, I know it well, you know, and if you think about it, I do want to ask Shalisa about, you know, the events this year. Cause I’d be willing to bet you being in, in Louisiana, you guys probably celebrate Mardi Gras. Am I right?

Shalisa Roland:

We definitely celebrate Mardi Gras.

Anna Bell:

With the global pandemic though, were a lot of those celebrations are canceled or postponed? Maybe you can kind of tell us about this year, but what under normal circumstances, those events look like?

Shalisa Roland:

Well, I’d kind of like to blend the questions, to be honest, because I think most people see Mardi Gras as an event, but it’s really like a culture.

Anna Bell:

Oooh, I like that.

Shalisa Roland:

There’s nothing that COVID-19 can take away from Louisiana’s Mardi Gras. It lives in the streets of Louisiana. It thrives in its food and its cultural scene. And there’s nothing that COVID-19 could do for that. Even if we don’t have the parades, the parades are the event. If we don’t have the parades, there’s still King cake, King cake flavored everything.

Anna Bell:

Have you found the baby? That’s the big question. Have you found that?

Shalisa Roland:

I always try to like escape the baby. I haven’t had it yet, so she’s keeping my fingers crossed.

Anna Bell:

There you go. That’s fun. But I love that. You’re saying that that’s ingrained in the culture. Like it’s one in the same. So I love hearing that, that’s wonderful. Nothing can stop that. Well, maybe you can kind of talk to us a little bit about the other family-friendly things that we can do when we come to visit with you that I can do when I bring my kids. You know, I have been told that you guys have a pretty amazing aquarium.

Shalisa Roland:

We do, the Shreveport Aquarium, and it is so near and dear to us because everything that they do kinda puts back into our community. You’ll notice that the staff there is very passionate about what they do and the causes and everything that they serve. There’s a, have you ever heard of paddlefish?

Anna Bell:

No.

Shalisa Roland:

I don’t know if the proper term is endangered species, but I know that there’s some element of endangerment for this type of fish. Well, we have a lake that’s full of them. And so yeah. And so what they’ll do is they’ll take some, and they’ll procreate them, and they’ll put them back out and it’s actually helping them. And then they’ll tell all the little kids about, you know, the stories of the paddlefish. And then of course, there’s all those experiences that, that you can get. You can watch a live shark feeding. So cool.

Anna Bell:

Oh, look out. See my kids would love that.

Shalisa Roland:

Yeah. And then there are, they’re also really progressive in the fact that they have like events. So they are, yeah. They’re organizing like a Halloween event right now that’s gonna last all the whole month of October.

Anna Bell:

How fun. Oh, I love hearing that.

Shalisa Roland:

That’s just one step. So, you know, like Louisiana, a lot of people think about swamps and alligators. We have place called Gators and Friends where you, it’s really like multigenerational fun. Bring your grandmas, bring your little ones, bring everyone.

Anna Bell:

Oh, I love that.

Shalisa Roland:

It’s like a walking petting zoo. So you walk these trails, and you can feed and pet farm animals and gentle animals. And you can even zip-line over alligator feeding through the COVID-19, but I’m sure it’ll pick back up soon and you can do these race cars. I think we go to 35 miles per hour,  not some rinky dink race car.

Anna Bell:

Look out! Zip lining and race car driving! Yeah. That sounds like an adventure.

Shalisa Roland:

Yeah, it’s games and friends adventure park!

Anna Bell:

So fun. Oh, I love hearing about those family friendly events. You know, I’d love to talk about downtown Shreveport a little bit more too. Can you kind of tell us, I’ve been told to check out the Art Space. Do you know anything about it?

Shalisa Roland:

Yes. I love the Art Space and all of their exhibits. It’s such a fun diverse space to embrace people’s creativity. But you walk in.. it’s three floors. So there’s one that’s beneath the ground. There’s one on the first level and there’s one above it and you can host events there. It’s, it’s just the coolest experience. And as you’re walking through there’s just something different that’s gonna resonate with you with each artist. And so it’s just covered between traditional art, abstract art. And everything you can find in between.

Anna Bell:

And does that kind of, that atmosphere kind of bleed out into the downtown area? Do you see a lot of that culture and art in the downtown area? Maybe you can kind of share some of that with us, kind of be our tour guide if you will.

Shalisa Roland:

Sure. So if I had to take you on a tour downtown Shreveport, you see a lot of colorful murals. One of them is actually attached to our building. It’s called the call to action mural. It’s super vibrant. And it lights up at night. It’s just something you can’t miss. It’s a true, it’s on the Shreveport-Bossier Bucket list and one of the most incredible spots in the area.

Anna Bell:

Well, how cool. And that’s your back doorstep? That is so cool.

Shalisa Roland:

And so it’s super colorful and it has everything from like chefs, to popular festivals that we’ve had in the past. Some of our attractions and some of the areas that make Shreveport-Bossier you who we really are. That’s like one of the murals, so many more downtown. So if you wanted to take a walking tour, we actually do have a walking tour downtown and walk around and see everything.

Anna Bell:

Yeah. You’ve got good weather and get outside and really experience it firsthand. And that’s great. I love that!

Shalisa Roland:

And it’s not like a massive downtown area where you could lose people. So if you were travelling with a group of people who were into art and someone was hungry and wanted to do like a, a bar or something like that, each of you can kind of go out and do your own thing and meet back up with that, without the hassle of that.

Anna Bell:

Yeah. Okay. Now speaking of bars, I’ve heard, you’ve got some really cool craft breweries, right?

Shalisa Roland:

Yes. And that even speaks also to the family friendly zone. So a lot of people think like ‘beer’, oh their children aren’t welcome, but that’s absolutely not true. We have very family friendly breweries here. We have three.  Flying Heart Brewing, Red River Brewing and Great Raft Brewing. And each of them always have such a welcoming nature to their atmosphere. And the beer is so good! I was not a beer drinker prior to jumping into tourism. But once you get your footing and you try everything, they offer these flights. If you like beer at all..

Anna Bell:

Oh yeah girl, all that sounds so fun! Yes. Your kids are in a safe area and you can enjoy a little drink. That sounds right up my avenue.

Shalisa Roland:

And they even do games, so like you can do like a game night and a brewery. It’s really fun.

Anna Bell:

I love hearing that too. That’s awesome. So kind of, you get a little glimpse into the nightlife in Shreveport.

Yeah. If it’s one of those situations if you don’t have a babysitter, bring the kids! It’s all good. That’s right, bring the kids.

Anna Bell:

I’ve also heard, and you said this a little bit earlier, you’ve also been called the Sportsman’s Paradise. Is that right?

Shalisa Roland:

That’s right! Sportsman’s Paradise.

Anna Bell:

Tell me a little me about that.

Shalisa Roland:

So, you know, Sportsman’s Paradise is everything hunting, fishing, boating, just really appreciating everything that nature has to offer us, with a little bit of skillset behind it. So I’m also the PR and digital content manager for the Sports Commission here, so I work hand in hand with them as well.

Anna Bell:

So we’ve come to the right person then! You’ve got the inside scoop for us! Tell us all about wildlife refuge

Shalisa Roland:

You know, everything. So we have all of these different things as far as, even archery, when it comes to outdoors is really nothing we can’t do when it comes to Sportsman’s Paradise. So we host many  fishing events here. And we have boat ramps that can launch thousands of different people, you know, where people can pull up and park. So it’s a great location.

Anna Bell:

Wow. That’s awesome. And trails I’m sure.

Shalisa Roland:

So many community trails, biking trails in the rural community loves it. Not only that, but we have, I think we’re surrounded by like seven lakes, five to seven lakes. Yeah.

Anna Bell:

So, you know, like the silver lining, I guess with this year is everybody’s seemed to get outside more than we ever have, or at least have in a while. I’m enjoying seeing my neighbors outside, getting out and walking. And I bet a lot of the people in the Shreveport – Bossier area have been making use of, of the outside amenities that you offer.

Shalisa Roland:

Absolutely. One of my favorite things about Shreveport-Bossier is you can really pick your vacation. A lot of times feel, people feel like, you know, if you go to one day a destination, you can only do one thing. And that’s completely a myth here in Shreveport. We’re well known for our nightlife because how many riverboat casinos and the racing we have here. We are very hospitable here. Our hospitality is what we’re known for. And so we’re going to make you your spouse, your family, everyone. So welcome. We have something here for everybody.

Anna Bell:

Oh, that’s wonderful. And I’ve also heard that if you’re a sports fan, you can enjoy a game or two.

Shalisa Roland:

Yeah. You can definitely enjoy a game or two. We host all kinds of events coming this November. We’re actually hosting a LSU in Louisiana tech game here, so..

Anna Bell:

Wow. That’s going to be a big one.

Shalisa Roland:

Yes. We have another one coming up with a Bama and University of Louisiana and Monroe.

Anna Bell:

That one’s going to be another big one too. And you have a hockey group too, don’t you? The Mud Bugs is that right?

Shalisa Roland:

So the Mud Bugs is very popular. I mean, these are ride or die fans. Yeah. And it’s such a great experience. It, you would think that, you know, our area wouldn’t be privy to hockey or anything like that. We’re not a cold destination at all!

Anna Bell:

But you can cool off at the rink!

Shalisa Roland:

That right! During the off season months, even go ice skating there. It’s such a cool event and experience.

Anna Bell:

That’s really neat. Oh, I like that. Well, Shalisa, I love to hear, you know, in your opinion, as our virtual tour guide, that you’ve been so wonderful and sharing with us, what what’s maybe one of the best places, or best places to visit or best places to eat that you’d be willing to share with us from the Shreveport Bossier area?

Shalisa Roland:

That’s such an unfair question! I’ll tell you why it’s unfair because food is like, part of is just like the, my love for food is ridiculous.

Anna Bell:

I know it! You can’t help it and especially know when you’re going out of town and you’re going to try somewhere new. The first thing you think about is, Oh, the good food I’m about to get!

Shalisa Roland:

Absolutely. So if you’re looking for an authentic Cajun experience, so there’s one in every corner! And everyone has something different about each one.

Anna Bell:

Is there might be a dish that we should try?

Shalisa Roland:

So many dishes, so many dishes. So the crawfish etouffee!

Anna Bell:

Oh yes.

Shalisa Roland:

Gumbo everywhere. If you’re looking for brunch, I would suggest Maryland’s place. Maryland’s place is a great place where you can get Cajun food like a local experience and a very casual setting. And one of one of our most popular neighborhoods. It’s super diverse, super like quirky, cool and inviting for everyone. Right. If you were coming to the area I would say…

Anna Bell:

You’re selling me on it Maryland’s place!!

Shalisa Roland:

One thing that they have that’s really cool is almond butter stuffed beignets.

Anna Bell:

Oh my goodness. Almond butter stuffed beignets?  Okay. My mouth is watering!

Shalisa Roland:

It’s all good. And then so yeah, almond butter stuffed beignets, and we have so many options. Oh my God. A date night – Robinson Film Center! It’s Louisiana has only independent film center and they offer a movie. So it really brings a whole new experience to date night, you know, just like the typical dinner a movie. It’s not typical at the Robinson center! So they have all these different films that they play. So it’s some of them that are mainstream that you can find in like theaters, but also they bring back some oldies and goodies and they’ll allow you to have some kind of experience afterwards and drink your wine and have it in there.

Anna Bell:

Brown bag it? Oh, I love that.

Shalisa Roland:

Yeah. And on the second level they have a bistro that is continuously advancing their menu in ways that I have never known! Right now, they have like a flight of Sangrias, I believe, so many different ones that you can get. And Chef Tootie whips up a gumbo that you can’t deny.

Anna Bell:

Oh, that sounds great. Okay. I’ve definitely got to add that to the list for sure. We’ve got at least one good place that I know I can go and get a good brunch. And then that night we can go and watch a good film and enjoy a good sangria and some gumbo. That sounds good to me!

Shalisa Roland:

And if you like the countryside, ride on the boom or Bust Byway. Some people just want to get away from like the hustle and bustle of things. You can get outdoors and you can visit Cattle Lake on the Boom or Bust Byway. You can take advantage of  you pick opportunities at our local farms. You can go and visit two zoos. We have Cyprus zoo and we have Jubilee’s zoo. If you’ve never pet a giraffe, visit Jubilee zoo, you can – I’m sorry, not a giraffe, a zebra, zebra, zebra. Yes. At Jubilee zoo and they offer all these authentic experiences, but it’s in the outskirts. It’s in the outskirts of Shreveport Bossier. So the Boom or Bust Byway is 136 mile path that travels through four parishes. And it was designated by the state of Louisiana. Well my project is to take care of that cattle, in both of those parishes. And so part of my project for the Boom or Bust Byway is to find those hole in the wall restaurants and attractions and things like that. And there are so many out there. So if you’re just looking for a way to just of get away, discover a new sense of nature.

Anna Bell:

And you know, that’s what a lot of people do. You know,  you’re tired of being in the same ole, same ole bubble, and you want to go somewhere and experience something new, but maybe not the hustle and bustle. You kind of just want to calm, slow down, visit…

Shalisa Roland:

Travel at your own pace!

Anna Bell:

That sounds like the ticket. Awesome.

Shalisa Roland:

We’ve got something for everybody. If you’re looking for, if you’re a couple and want to come to Shreveport Bossier we have something for you. If you’re a family, we’ve got something for you. If you just kind of get away and take a break, cause it’s been a rough year, it has been a rough year.  Take some time for yourself and enjoy the Boom or bust Highway!

Anna Bell:

I love that. That’s so awesome. Shalisa, as we kind of wrap things up, where can our listeners go to learn more information and really map out their upcoming trip to Shreveport Bossier area?

Shalisa Roland:

So you can visit – I’m sorry. You can visit https://www.shreveport-bossier.org/ . You can follow us on our social channels. So we have a Facebook account and an Instagram account and a Twitter account that are all thriving. For Twitter, it’s SBCTB, which would read out the acronym, acronym Shreveport Bossier convention, and tourist Bureau. For Instagram and for Facebook is Shreveport Bossier Louisiana’s Other Side.

Anna Bell:

That’s awesome. And I bet you are constantly updating them with wonderful photos and tips and tricks on what we need to be doing to map out that perfect vacation!

Shalisa Roland:

Absolutely. And also I’m updating our, my blog page, which is https://20×49.shreveport-bossier.org/ and the name comes from I-20 AND I-49 So Shreveport Bossier is were both of those interstates kind of meet. And so everything underneath that covers the Shreveport Bossier area.

Anna Bell:

Wow! So that might be another good  resource then.

Shalisa Roland:

Every week.

Anna Bell:

Awesome. Shalisa, we sincerely appreciate your time and your insight today and getting us all excited to plan our next trip to Louisiana and come down and see you. So thank you.

Shalisa Roland:

You’re so welcome. And our arms are wide open for anybody who wants to come on and get the Shreveport Bossier experience.

Anna Bell:

All right. You heard that kids, it’s time to go! Alright Shalisa, thank you again and guys we hope you enjoyed this episode of Main and Mulberry! Until next time, I’m Anna Bell.

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