Andouille Pageant returns October 1

Published 4:44 pm Friday, September 9, 2022

LAPLACE — Being able to see Louisiana through the eyes of a festival queen is an experience like no other.

The St. John the Baptist Parish Andouille Pageant will make its grand return at 7 p.m. Saturday, October 1 at St. Peter Catholic School in Reserve.

The event was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns, while the 2021 pageant took place in a condensed interview format without the usual glitz and glam last December due to parish-wide destruction from Hurricane Ida.

Since there was no festival last year, 2021 Miss and Teen queens Hope Theisges and Rylee Madison Moore will reign over the 2022 Andouille Festival along with the new queens that will be crowned on October 1.

Pageant coordinator and former Andouille Queen Kristina Haydel said the last time four queens reigned over the Andouille Festival was in 2013, following the festival’s cancellation from Hurricane Isaac in 2012. It was a wonderful experience that allowed all of the young women to bond together, Haydel said.

According to Haydel, the true impact of the Andouille Pageant extends far beyond the stage. Both the Miss and the Teen Queen represent St. John Parish as they travel the state, learning about the region’s rich culture.

“To keep the pageant alive is important. What people don’t see from the outside is that it gives so much to the young women who are competing and especially for the winners,” Haydel said. “You see the commodities Louisiana represents and value the traditions in a way that regular residents of Louisiana don’t get to see. You truly get to deep dive into all of our industries and speak to the farmers, the ranchers, the fishermen, the owners of the smokehouses…It really helps young women broaden their horizons.”

Experiences traveling can help the pageant winners in their future careers. The interview portion of the pageant itself also introduces contestants to invaluable job skills they would not normally attain until after high school or college. Judges not only rate the contestants, but also provide a score sheet with notes on how to improve.

“I competed in Miss Andouille at 20, turned 21 during my reign, and graduated from college at 22. Having had that interview and going on to compete at the state pageant gave me a lot of feedback that helped me secure a job as a manager of a very big business right out of college,” Haydel said. “I think it also instills the confidence of walking on a stage and projecting who you are for the world to see.”

After two years without many festivals or activities across the state, Haydel expects this year’s pageant to be “bigger and better than ever.”

Girls ages 13 to 23 are invited to sign up through September 16, according to Andouille Pageant coordinator Deanna Schexnayder. Applications are online at www.andouillefestival.com/pageants/

Schexnayder said the theme of the 2022 pageant will be “If the Shoe Fits.” Since the historic St. John Theatre is still recovering from Hurricane Ida, St. Peter is hosting the pageant, and set design from the recent River Parish Community Theatre production of “Cinderella” will add a magical touch to the event.

In practices leading up to the pageant, contestants will learn to walk in their evening gowns and learn an opening number to dance to. The Miss contestants will also prepare to answer an on-stage question.

According to Schexnayder, the Andouille Pageant became a St. John Parish tradition in 1974. The 47th Miss Andouille will be crowned this year, coinciding with the 47th annual Andouille Festival.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for girls. We get to go to Washington DC in January. You get to travel the state and see what Louisiana’s culture has to offer. They not only represent the festival, but also represent the parish,” Schexnayder said.