Bad weather lowers festival attendance

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 2, 2002


LAPLACE – Hay was scattered on the lawn at the Percy Hebert Building Saturday to dry the festival grounds and keep festival-goers’ feet out of mud and off the grass. The three-day Andouille Festival closed early Friday after tornado watches were issued for St. John the Baptist Parish. It reopened on a wet Saturday, but not to the crowds parish officials had anticipated.

A blustery weekend kept local residents at home and visitors indoors. Last year, parish marketing efforts brought attendance up to about 17,000. This year no amount of marketing could compensate for attendance lost to the rain.

Attendance dropped, “Plenty, plenty, plenty,” said June Bailey, owner of Bailey’s World Famous Andouille in LaPlace.

Bailey has participated in the Andouille Festival since the mid-1990s. This year Bailey and her crew served hot chicken and andouille gumbo and potato salad from their booth.

“It rained just as much inside the booth as it did outside,” Bailey said.

Rain forced Bailey’s Famous Andouille to shut their booth down around 8 p.m. Friday night. On Sunday, they closed around 7 p.m.

While the sun did not peek from behind the clouds Saturday, festival patrons could walk around the fair grounds with a cold Daiquiri or a warm slice of andouille and pepperoni pizza without getting soaked. It was, Bailey said, the best day of the festival.

“Saturday was the only good day we had,” Bailey said. “We did not lose anything. We have the Andouille shop and can sell what we made there. It is not a loss for us.”

Saturday brought more than just Andouille-lovers to Bailey’s World Famous Andouille booth. Mark Doming, of Bailey’s Famous Andouille, brought home the prize in the gumbo cooking contest judged by the renowned Louisiana chef John Folse. Other gumbo winners include Spencer Chauvin and Keith Brock.

While attendance was down, the spirits of patrons were celebratory. Families sat at picnic tables eating everything from Andouille piquant to Andouille poboys laden with hot sauce. Local youth climbed aboard rides that sent them hurtling through the air and bells, sirens and carnival callers announced top scores in hoop shooting, darts and other festive games.

“I was there the whole time,” Parish President Nickie Monica said. “Meeting the people (was the best part), as always. The food was good too. Being there for most of the festival, I got to try a little bit of everything.”

While the parish is still trying to calculate the amount of money brought in this year, Monica estimated attendance would fall somewhere around 8,000.

“No doubt, the rain affected attendance,” Monica said. “We were expecting a great weekend. Saturday was still a great success.”

Julia Remondet, director of St. John Economic Development, said 5,300 of the 7,209 guests who attended the festival did so on Saturday.

“The weather was not great on Saturday but if we had two more days like that we would have had much different numbers,” Remondet said. “Friday was a total loss.”