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Bonfire construction cancelled in St. John & St. James parishes

GARYVILLE — Christmas Eve bonfires will not be permitted in St. John the Baptist and St. James parishes this year due to COVID-19 safety concerns.

On Thursday, Dec. 10, the Pontchartrain Levee District notified St. John the Baptist Parish officials that bonfires would not be allowed on the mainline Mississippi River Levee. Therefore, St. John the Baptist Parish is not authorized to issue any bonfire permits for the 2020 Bonfire Season.

The St. John Parish update comes less than 24 hours after officials announced the cancellation of the 2020 Bonfire Season in St. James Parish.

According to a statement posted to social media, the Unified Command Group spent several weeks determining alternatives for safely continuing with the bonfire tradition. However, Wednesday’s announcement of a 16.9 percent COVID-19 positivity rate in St. James Parish mandated the cancellation of the event.

St. James Parish President Pete Dufresne will host a Facebook Live event today at 4 p.m. to further address the cancellation, permit refunds and deconstructing of previously built bonfires.

“This was by no means an easy decision to make as this tradition is long standing and special to our community in particular,” officials said in an online statement Wednesday night. “We understand this has been an extremely difficult year for many of us and we have hoped for a sense of normalcy in the Christmas season especially, however we must first and foremost protect the heath, safety and well-being of our residents.”

No further information has been released on the St. John Parish cancellation as of the time of this report. Updates will be shared as they become available.

According to the Louisiana Department of Health, St. John Parish had a 6.10 percent COVID-19 positivity rate for the week of Nov. 26 to Dec. 2. There was a 5.50 percent positivity rate for the week of Nov. 19-25.

The Blood, Sweat and Bonfires group of Garyville announced they will be back next year with another top-notch bonfire creation. The group had previously planned to build a tribute this year to a late 1970s photograph of the self-proclaimed “world’s largest bonfire.” However, those plans have fallen through in light of the recent cancellations.

The group drew thousands of visitors to the River Parishes last year with the construction of a 60-foot alligator bonfire in Garyville. Josh Weidert of Blood, Sweat and Bonfires recently told L’OBSERVATEUR of the group’s commitment to keep the community safe during these unprecedented times.