Organizer hopes for bigger crowds at Alligator Fest

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 25, 2013

By Kimberly Hopson

LULING – The Rotary Club of St. Charles Parish is gearing up for its big weekend with the 33rd Annual Alligator Festival.
The all-ages festival will run from Thursday, Sept. 26, to Sunday, Sept. 29, at the West Bank Bridge Park in Luling. Festival coordinator Flint Distephano said there is lots to look forward to this year as usual. Distephano has helped organize the event for at least 14 years now.
The biggest difference from last year, hopefully, will be the weather.
“No rain,” said Distephano emphatically.
On a more serious note, Distephano said this year’s festival will feature a live alligator for attendees to pet and handle. The alligator will only be available at certain times of the day because of wildlife laws. Hurricanes and daiquiris will also be for sale at the food booths, in addition to alligator-themed treats such as alligator burgers, alligator sausage on a stick and fried alligator wraps.
The Alligator Stomp 5K and Half-Mile Kids Race will also be a big draw, said Distephano. Runners can still register online on the festival’s website, and all entrants will receive free festival entry.
Local favorites will play live music for most of the day. Saturday will feature The Wiseguys, Michael Aaron and the Strays, Paper Steamboat and Category 6. Sunday will include performances by Louisiana Kids Incorporated, Waylon Thibodeaux, Christian Serpas and Ghost Town and the TopCats.
The first Alligator Festival was held on the driving range at Willowdale Country Club. The festival moved to its present home at the St. Charles Parish Westbank Bridge Park after several location changes but has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception.
It has become the largest festival in St. Charles Parish. The festival is organized completely by volunteers and receives support from sponsors and local companies.
Distephano said the festival usually pulls about 25,000 attendees on average, but he hopes for at least 5,000 more this year. Higher attendance means more contributions for the club’s academic foundation.
“For this festival we need to raise at least $35,000 for scholarships. That’s the least we want to accomplish, but if we have a good festival, we actually would like to put more into the foundation,” said Carl “Kerl” Cantoelle, a festival coordinator.
The Rotary Club also tries to put some of the money generated from the festival back into the parish in some form.
“The goal is to keep supporting the scholarship program. Since we’re using the Bridge Park, we try to do things to help keep it up or add to it,” said Distephano.
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