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LAFAYETTE, La. — Despite guidelines involving distance, minimal interaction with others and keeping a close inner circle these past 11 months, love has managed to flourish in Acadiana.

Here are some stories — from new relationships in quarantine, eloping in Colorado, to falling in love with life — about love in Lafayette during lockdown.

Retirement In

The Twilight Zone

Cliff Broussard fell in love with retirement ... and the Gravy Train at the Rusted Rooster: Broussard explained how he started quarantine, with a job but plenty of time to practice his art

skills.

"I retired from Slemco May 2021. I ended up at Slemco as their inventory control supervisor. A new position. I had barcode and warehousing experience, started in

1999.

"I rode there (Rusted Rooster) daily when it was just take out. I was working remotely from home. I'd pick up and eat under a tree at city hall. I painted a Rusted Roosters window depicting a rooster with Ozzie Osborn on it.

I hadn't planned on retiring into an episode of the Twilight Zone. I love getting paid for sleeping in and riding my bike. I'm able to paint and draw. I have a degree in Fine Arts from UL. The Rusted Rooster was my go-to during the pandemic. Great food and great staff."

Adding A 'Dawg-Ter'

To The Family

Elizabeth Williams and her husband decided to "start a family" with the help of Acadiana Animal Aid by adding a dawg-ter: Williams spent the beginning of quarantine much like the rest of us, catching up on projects and shows.

"I returned home from work on March 7 and had a feeling I would be home much longer than anyone was predicting at the time (I'm a tour manager for a group travel company).

"After 10 days at home, my closet was cleaned out, I caught up on my Netflix queue and a huge stack of books were read. Like everyone else, I was spending entirely too much time on social media when I saw an Acadiana Animal Aid post with several dogs available for adoption. My heart leapt when I saw Ellie.

"Several people were interested in her, but Acadiana Animal Aid chose us because of our experience with the breed (we had another Aussie for 13 years - she crossed the rainbow bridge in 2016).

"Ellie joined our family on March 20, 2020. We had plenty of time to get acclimated to each other during the quarantine and time at home made every little milestone feel special.

"We fell into a routine of taking long walks every afternoon when my husband returned from work. It was refreshing to have that time in nature, just talking to each other and bonding with our new pup.

"We don't have kids - only our fur baby dawg-ter. Ellie's name at AAA was 'July.' Our friends have a dog named Bubba that we love. I asked my friend what the female version of Bubba would be, and since he was a fan of the "Beverly Hillbillies," he instantly said "Ellie Mae."

"He calls her by her full name, but my mom only calls me by my full name when I'm in trouble, so I just call her Ellie.

"Her quirky personality has been endlessly entertaining and there has been so much unexpected joy that has come along with the addition to our family. She's obsessed with Bruce's socks and my hair ties, is not a fan of our outside cats and is still surprised by her own reflection every time she walks past the mirror."

Eloping In

The Colorado Rockies

Alexandra Culotta and Kayla Arwood eloped in the mountains of Colorado: Alexandra and Kayla were supposed to have a big wedding at Grand Opera House of the South last October, but it got postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. They rescheduled for this coming October but decided just before Christmas to elope. On Jan. 9, they had a beautiful small mountaintop ceremony.

Alexandra spoke about their relationship: "We have been together for 5 years, this coming March. We got engaged in July 2019. We met first at a hair show. Kayla was a model for one of my former cosmetology student's business. But really got to know each other later, at events put on by Boom! Boom! Burlesque.

"Eloping as an idea seemed to come to both of us about the same time, in the process of navigating our COVID trials, though I think Kayla actually said it first. Colorado allows couples to marry themselves, without an officiant or witness. Also, flights were well-priced, and wouldn't require exposure at a layover airport. So that, with the beautiful view, helped make our decision."

Kayla added her perspective on their relationship: "By the time we had been introduced, I already had a big crush on her. As for eloping, we both came to the realization that the big wedding was no longer that important to us. After spending nearly a year inside together, a small intimate ceremony celebrating our love of one another just felt right."

Grand Canyon Proposal

Becca Cord and James Blanchard got engaged during a pandemic road trip: Cord explained how the idea of a road trip to the Grand Canyon came about.

"James and I spent a lot of time watching Netflix during the height of the quarantine, as I am sure many did. We took advantage of the downtime to start watching "Parks and Recreation" and finished the whole series fairly quickly.

"When we watched the episode where April and Andy drive to the Grand Canyon on a whim, we both kind of looked at each other and decided we would make the same road trip for my birthday. We figured there wasn't a better place to social distance than a massive canyon, so we packed our

bags.

"Our closest friends Katie Roark and Kyle Monceaux came along to enjoy the experience, and unbeknownst to me, also help capture a very special moment.

"Once we finally arrived, after taking in the beauty of the landmark and having a small picnic of cheese and wine, James popped the question. Of course I said yes, or "Yup!" to be

exact.

"Out of all the grimness that 2020 brought for us and so many people, it was something that gave us such joy that we could then share with our friends and family. It's actually funny too, because on the drive back to Lafayette we learned there were several other locals that were at the Canyon at the very same time we were.

"On the last leg of our trip, our good friend, Seth Thomas, reached out to ask if he could give us a congratulatory mention on the Local Stew that Sunday afterward. It was the perfect welcome home to listen in and relive the moment all over again."

New Love Thriving During Quarantine

Jaime Normand and her boyfriend Steve Ramke started dating during quarantine and are going seven months strong: Normand, who moved back to Lafayette recently, found she had time to try dating again thanks to quarantine.

"I am 33 and haven't dated much as I was pursuing my career and living in NYC. Once I moved back home and COVID happened, I had more time and was ready to be in a relationship.

"I reactivated my Bumble account (to which my mother told all her friends was a Christian dating site), expanded my search to include Baton Rouge, and met my boyfriend. Our first date was kayaking in Lake Martin, followed by Deano's pizza, and a walk around University of Louisiana at Lafayette's campus on the hottest day of the year.

"Our last seven months have been filled with farmer's markets, poboys, alligators, Deano's, Marie LeVeaux, Louisiana history, walks in the Saint Streets, cooking new things, back porch visits with my parents, and small family gatherings.

"Even reflecting now, I can see how COVID limitations allowed us to have more quality time together, simple family gatherings, and more time for the things that matter. Although COVID has changed our lives drastically, we like to say 2020 was our favorite year yet because we found each

other."

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