Area festivals, fairs mean business

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 29, 2002


LAPLACE – Fairs and festivals in the River Parishes bring communities together and, in many cases, tourist dollars as well, to local businesses such as hotels and restaurants.

The signature event in St. John the Baptist Parish is the St. John Parish Andouille Festival, set this year on Oct. 25-27.

The parish’s Economic Development Director, Julia Remondet, said last year’s festival drew 15,000 visitors, up by 3,000 from the year before, thanks to marketing efforts outside the parish.

Several non-profit organizations also raised welcome money,including the Lions Club, Rotary Club, Knights of Columbus, Knights of Peter Claver and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“We made less money this year, giving the non-profits a bigger slice of the pie,” Remondet said, “but we still made nearly $19,000.”

One popular St. John Parish mainstay was the Timbermill Festival, which started in Garyville in 1988 but not held since 1998, according to organizer Carl Monica.

Plans have been launched, though, to celebrate Garyville’s 100th birthday in 2003, the same year Louisiana will be celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase, according to Stan Orillion. Monthly planning meetings are already being held for this event.

Other festivals held in St. John the Baptist Parish include: the St. Peter Church Fair, held for more than 30 years and this year set April 5-7, in Reserve; the 31st annual St. Joan of Arc Church Fair, set April 26-28, in LaPlace; and the St. John the Baptist Church Fair, set Sept. 13-15, in Edgard.

St. Charles Parish’s economic development director, Corey Faucheux, cited three examples of local festivals which attract out-of-parish attendance.

These include the Louisiana Catfish Festival, this year set July 12-14, at St. Gertrude Catholic Church in Des Allemands; the 23rd St. Charles Rotary Club’s Alligator Festival, this year set Sept. 26-29, at the West Bridge Park in Luling; and the 31st annual Destrehan Fall Festival, this year set Nov. 9-10, at Destrehan Plantation.

Nancy Robert, manager of Destrehan Plantation, commented, “People mark their calendars for this festival,” which draws fans of arts and crafts, Louisiana cuisine and antiques. Vendors come from a nine-state area, she added.

“It does add significantly to economic development in the area,” Robert asserted, and revenue raised each year is re-invested in the plantation’s restoration and development.

Other festivals held in St. Charles Parish include: the third annual Destrehan Spring Heritage Festival, set May 1-2 for children, at Destrehan Plantation; the 22nd annual Little Red Church Food & Fun Festival, set May 3-5, at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church and school; the 32nd River Parishes Fall Festival, set Sept. 13-15, at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church and school in Norco; the Family Festival, set Sept. 22, at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Paradis; and the 24th annual German Coast Food Festival, set Oct. 5-6, at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Hahnville.

In St. James Parish, according to Economic Development Director Edie Michel, the leading festivals include the 11th annual Oak Alley Arts and Crafts Festival, just held March 16-17, at Oak Alley Plantation upriver from Vacherie; the seventh annual Br’er Rabbit Folk Festival, set Oct. 19, at Laura Plantation in Vacherie; and the 13th Festival of the Bonfires, set Dec. 13-15, in Lutcher.

Connie Becnel, assistant director of the Oak Alley Foundation, said this year’s event drew an estimated 7,000 people on Saturday and 6,000 visitors on Sunday, generating an estimated gross revenue of approximately $100,000.

The net proceeds will be plowed back into the upkeep of the house, with plans including roof work, re-plastering and some painting.

The 155 booths did boomtown business, and already 100 booths are scheduled for the 2003 festival, Becnel said. “There were tons of cars, so I’m sure the bed and breakfast places, the gas stations did business. People came from as far away as Gulfport, Miss., and vendors came from Oregon, Wisconsin and Kansas.”

Other festivals held in St. James Parish include: the Chanel Spring Festival, just held March 15-17 at Chanel School next to St. Joseph Catholic Church in Paulina; the Choupique Fishing Rodeo, set April 21-22, at the St. James Boat Club on U.S. Highway 61, near Gramercy; the St. James Catholic Church Fair, set April 28 in St. James; the 13th annual St. James Historical Society Heritage Day, set Sept. 28, at the Society’s Museum on River Road in Lutcher; and the St. Michael Church Fall Festival, set Oct. 5-6, in Convent.