Crowds pack fair grounds

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE — Beautiful weather, coupled with an expanded layout and new location, made for an exceptionally successful 2008 Andouille Festival, said St. John officials Monday.

Early attendance numbers show that for the weekend the festival brought in about 26,000 people, which is the events best draw since 2005 when the event attracted over 28,000.

“That figure is a bit skewed though because that was the year that St. John population skyrocketed due to Hurricane Katrina,” said St. John Public Information Officer Buddy Boe. “The numbers for 2008 are actually almost 10,000 more than any year in the past five years.”

Boe said Friday’s attendance was slow going for the first half of the night because of three home football games being played in the parish that night, but he said the evening was punctuated by a dazzling fireworks display that brought down the house.

“Everyone in LaPlace could see the fireworks,” Boe said. “People driving on Airline from Reserve could see them. The people loved them, we loved them and we are definitely looking to continuing it next year.”

Next to the beautiful weather that the festival enjoyed Saturday, one of the highlights of the middle day of the event was the huge arm wrestling tournament that, Boe said, attracted hundreds of people.

“It was really a surprise how popular that went over,” Boe said. “The group that put the tournament on said they would like to make an official regional tournament a permanent part of the Andouille Festival.”

Boe said that the parish had its share of question marks regarding moving the festival to its new digs at the St. John Community Center, but he said most of them were answered positively with a trip on the Ferris wheel with Parish President Bill Hubbard and St. John Economic Director Julia Remondet.

“When we got to the top we could actually see how many people were on the grounds,” Boe said. “We could see the constant line of cars funneling into the festival from Highway 51. It was like that all weekend long.”

Boe said the Andouille Festival had reached its max after years of being staged in front of the Percy D. Hebert Building and it was time for a change in venue so that the event could stretch its legs and continue to grow.

“We really re-invented the wheel this year and started with a blank map,” Boe said. “Now we have room to grow and we are already throwing around ideas for next year. Everyone has a list of improvements.”

Included on that list for next year, Boe said, was more of an emphasis on the arts and crafts area of the festival grounds.

“They need to be in a more prominent spot so that people aren’t just walking past them,” Boe said. “We want to put a larger focus on our local vendors.”

Boe also mentioned the possibility of a festival website that would include band lineups, maps and other event schedules. He said the parish has purchased a domain name and should have something going in the near future.”