SWEET AS SUGAR: Baba recognized

Published 11:45 pm Friday, August 8, 2014

By Monique Roth

LAPLACE — Barbara Ann Loupe Oncale was recently distinguished as the top volunteer of the year for a state organization.

Don’t know who that is? That’s because around here she’s known as Baba.

“I’m kind of like Cher,” Baba said with a laugh. “I’m known by one name.”

Baba was recently named the 2014 Louisiana Sugar Cane Fair and Festival Association Volunteer of the Year as recognition for her years of work with the state association, which is linked to the St. John Parish Sugar Queen Pageant.

Sue Cancienne, a board member for the state association and one of the directors of the St. John Sugar Queen Pageant, said each year several names are submitted by board members for possible honorees.

This year, Petty Pollet, the association’s secretary, nominated Baba for all of her hard work and dedication to the pageant.

Pollet said at last year’s state sugar pageant, Baba helped with everything from selling T-shirts to collecting tickets, with lots of other things in between.

“When I nominated her, the board immediately, unanimously approved it,” Pollet said.

Baba became involved in the St. John Sugar Pageant in 1978 when the director at the time, Mac Donaldson, asked her to alter a few of the dresses for the contestants.

From there, Baba began to assist with the Sugar Teens in the dressing room and now, 35 years later, her role has blossomed into one of the pageant’s directors who does just about anything and everything, including easing contestants’ nerves backstage to fixing zippers on dresses and costumes. 

Baba’s extensive involvement in the pageant has earned her the title of “Hi Sugar Specialist.”

And although her volunteer of the year title comes from the Louisiana Sugar Cane Fair and Festival Association, it seems as though the title fits her even without the association’s recognition. 

She is active in the LaPlace Lions Club, the VFW Auxiliary Club, St. John Relay for Life, Andouille contestants, the Riverlands Country Club swim team and the St. John Theatre. She said she has also spent time volunteering at schools all over St. John Parish, including St. Joan of Arc, Riverside Academy, St. Peter Catholic, and St. Charles Catholic. She said she even started the Grandparents Club at SJA. 

Baba said volunteer work is important to her because she feels giving to the community is contagious and hopes she can be an example to others.

Baba, the daughter of Alvin and Gloria Louque, lives across the street from her parents in Garyville, where she is a member of the St. Hubert Church Parish.

She and her late husband Mickey Oncale have three children, Nikki, Lee and Lance.

Baba immediately lights up when mentioning her four grandchildren.

“Dalton, Mia, Davis and Lauren,” she says as she looks at a picture of them. 

“That’s the blood running through my veins.”

An employee at Formal Connection in LaPlace for 24 years, Baba doesn’t limit her working hours to that one business.

She said every now and then you can catch her acting as the hostess at Fatty’s Main Street Grill in LaPlace.

Baba will be honored as 2014 Volunteer of the Year at the 73rd Sugar Cane Festival in September in New Iberia. The festival includes a parade in which Baba will ride.

“I guess I have ADD or something,” Baba said with a laugh, explaining she just likes to keep busy. 

All of that busy work has paid off, and many, including the Louisiana Sugar Cane Fair and Festival Association, have noticed.