Record 25,000 pack LaPlace for Andouille fun

Published 12:11 am Wednesday, October 19, 2016

(Editor’s note: The story below has been edited since it was first published. Parish officials adjusted their tally for the attendance to 25,000 on Wednesday/Oct. 19)

LAPLACE — Jerry W. Jones Jr. had never attended an Andouille Festival before this year.

“I had a chance to walk around, talk to a bunch of different people and hear their stories about the festival and what the festival means to them,” Jones said. “The general consensus I got was that it is about their family, the culture of St. John and being able to stop for a moment and tell our story.”

Jones had a unique view of the three-day event that concluded Sunday as St. John the Baptist Parish’s economic development director. He was part of a management team that oversaw a record number of attendees, approximately 25,000, Parish leaders said.

Approximately 23,000 people attended 2015’s festival.

Jones said interest and attendance jumps were noticed immediately at the 43rd Annual Andouille Festival presented by Marathon Petroleum Company.

A colorful second line parade Saturday was part of the festival fun.

A colorful second line parade Saturday was part of the festival fun.

Regional news crews reported live from the venue even before the gates opened, and Friday’s discounted prices and teen night attractions brought in more than 2,000 additional attendees compared to 2015.

Parish President Natalie Robottom said the festival’s “huge success” was a testament to months of hard work and planning by a “great parish team.”

“Each year we strive to improve and grow the festival, and this year was record-setting for attendance and activities,” she said. “The Gumbo Cook-off and the addition of a General Store were hugely successful. They provided festivalgoers with options for actively participating and gathering mementoes of a great weekend.”

The General Store was a recently purchased portable building designed on the inside to look like an old general store, where the Parish sold St. John history books, festival T-shirts, cups with Andouille written on them and numerous other keepsakes. Jones said feedback included compliments on the cleanliness of the facilities and grounds.

“Adding those portable hand-washing stations out there was definitely a hit,” he said.

Jones said his focus changed last week after hearing from Parish Council members, who stressed the event should first serve local residents, then focus on financial health.

“I am grateful to the Council for notifying me that it was not about breaking even, that it is about making sure we invest in our community and invest in our people,” Jones said. “As my Council members said, this is not about making a loss or making a profit, it’s about providing a quality event to the festivalgoers and citizens in the parish.”

According to Jones, Parish officials should know by the end of the month how the festival’s finances played out.

Jones told Parish Council members last week the festival traditionally runs in the red, operating at a $30,000-plus deficit in 2015.

At the time, Parish Chief Administrative Officer Laverne Saulny said her goal is to have the festival break even, adding the event secured $90,000 in sponsorships.