Festival of Bonfires ready to begin in St. James

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 6, 2006


Staff Reporter

LUTCHER — As the slowly growing towers of wood begin the form along the mighty Mississippi, only one word comes to mind for residents in the River Parishes, &#8220Bonfires!”

While St. James Parish prepares to host the 17th Annual Festival of the Bonfires this Thursday through Sunday, children and adults of all ages have begun to anticipate the festive event.

For some the festival marks a time of food, fun and music, but for many it is a time when family and friends come together to celebrate a tradition and the Spirit of Christmas, Cajun style. The lighting of the wooden structures along the levee began in the 1800s, symbolizing a yearly celebration among the settlers. Since its phenomenal growth throughout the years, stories pertaining to the history of the event have also evolved into their own tradition.

However, one story has captivated the hearts of young and old alike. The Cajun Christmas Story tells of the lighting of the bonfires, as a path to lead &#8220Papa Noel” down the Mississippi River on Christmas Eve. In place of his sleigh is a pirogue led by alligators named Gaston, Ninette, &#8220Te-Boy,” Celeste and Suzette, just to name a few.

&#8220The festival is time for many to experience the heritage of St. James Parish,” said Jade LeBlanc, 2006 Miss Festival of the Bonfires Queen. &#8220The annual lighting of the bonfire continues to draw people from around the state”. LeBlanc will reign over the festival this weekend, alongside Rebecca Brock, 2006 Teen Miss Festival of the Bonfires Queen.

This year’s festival, located on the grounds of Lutcher Recreational Park, features a variety of events, including a live performance by Loverboy, with a special guest appearance from Zebra’s Randy Jackson.

The festival will also include amusement rides, food and craft booths, and Santa’s Very Merry Forest, with the lighting of a single bonfire each night, starting Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., and Sunday at 6 p.m.. Gates will open to the public Thursday, December 7; at 6 p.m. Tickets for the concert will start at $20. Friday thru Sunday, admission will remain at $3 a person, and free to children under the ages of 10, and adults over the age of 61.

The parish wide festival will help to fund the annual lighting of the bonfires, which is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve, As said by Miss Festival of the Bonfires herself, &#8220So load up the family, and bring them on down, to St. James Parish, for the most &#8220fiery” festival around.”

Schedule of Events

Thursday, December 7:

6:00 PM- Gates open

7:00 PM- Randy Jackson of Zebra

8:00 PM- Evening Concert


Friday, December 8:

4:00 PM- Festival opens

4:30 PM- Gumbo cook-off, Potato showdown, bread pudding bake off

4:30-7:30 PM- Music by Off the Hook

7:00 PM Bonfire Lighting on the Levee

8:00-12:00 PM- Music by Chee Weez

Saturday, December 9

8:30 Am- 5K run/walk

9:00AM- Breakfast with Santa

10:00 AM- Book signing by author Terri Hoover Dunham

10:30 AM – Festival opens

11:00 AM- Children’s Pageant

12:00 NOON – Cheer for a Cure for Cystic Fibrosis

5:00-8:00 PM- music by Typikal Reasons

6:30- 11:00 PM- Piano Bar featuring John Austin From Monteleone Hotel

7:00- Bonfire Lighting on the Levee

8:00-12:00- Music by Misbehavin’

Sunday, December10

9:00 AM- Million Mutt March (To benefit Ascension Animal Shelter)

10:00 AM- Festival Opens

11:00 AM-Washerboard Tournament

2:00-5:oo PM-Music by Foret Tradition

6:00PM- Bonfire Lighting on the Levee

5:00-9:00PM-Music by No Idea