Bonfire Festival respects tradition

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 13, 2000

DANIEL TYLER GOODEN / L’Observateur / December 13, 2000

LUTCHER – It was a weekend of good things in Lutcher. The 11th annualFestival of the Bonfires brought friends, families and new faces to St. JamesParish. The weather stayed nice and beautiful the whole weekend as the towncelebrated its long-standing tradition of bonfires.

Friday night at 7 p.m. the first of the many bonfires to be lighted thisseason came to life under that hand of Royce Zeringue Jr. For over 30 yearsZeringue has been building bonfires; this year three were built and lighted for the festival.

Before the levee filled each night for the lighting, the festival grounds behind the Knights of Columbus building were full of life.

Twenty groups of local chefs entered the gumbo cookoff Friday. Great potsfull of chicken, seafood and sausage simmered under the large white tent as each group strove to create the perfect gumbo. Judges came from as far asNew Orleans to decide the winning gumbo. In the judging room each gumbowas tried and tested for color, consistency, seasoning and taste. Thegeneral consensus when it was all said and done was that the gumbos were something special. Though the winners were chosen by the end of thetasting, most judges wished for a recount, finally satisfied by having a second or third bowl of their favorites.

In the end six groups stood out, three for chicken andouille and three for seafood.

Winners in the chicken category were: first place, Jeff McClung, sponsored by Industrial Metal Recyclers; second place, Greg Veron, sponsored by Veron’s Supermarket; and third place, Larry Roussel, sponsored by Louisiana Sportsmen’s Invitational Rodeo.

In the seafood category winners were: first place, Terry Louque, sponsored by Regions Bank; second place, Eric Brignac, sponsored by Debussy’s Bar; and third place, Mark Millet, Larry Faucheaux, Danny Martin and Randy Millet, sponsored by Occidental Chemical.

The competition was high within the tent. Each of the teams have wonawards at one time or another for their dishes, said Larry Roussel.

On Saturday the new Miss and Teen Festival of the Bonfires were chosen.

The Miss crown was given to Rachel Hoover, while the new Miss Teen Festival of the Bonfires is Crissy Michel.

The festival continued to run smoothly the rest of the weekend, said Camella Landry, festival director. The attendance grew again from last year’s countof around 8,000, though the current tally won’t be ready until all the money has been counted.

“There were more people on the levee each night of the festival. About 75 to100 every night,” said Landry.

The festival was brought to life by the Festival of the Bonfires committee, the organization that sponsors the holiday bonfires and pays for the $2 million liability insurance coverage. The insurance covers all bonfires, builtwithin required specifications, in both St. James and St. John parishes.The organization took on the task of raising money for the holiday bonfires 11 years ago when the Pontchartrain Levee Board decided it wouldn’t be liable for accidents during the bonfire celebrations.

“Someone needed to take responsibility,” said Landry. Her father, L. J. St.Pierre Jr., started the Festival of the Bonfires committee to keep the localtradition alive.

This year between 35 and 38 volunteers worked to make the festival, which pays for the insurance for Christmas Eve, possible. “We had a really goodgroup of hard workers this year. They really went out to promote thefestival,” said Landry.

Because of them, the festival again brought an entertaining weekend and a glimpse of what is in store for Christmas Eve.

Return To News Stories