Andouille Pageant celebrates 50-year milestone
Published 2:19 pm Wednesday, August 16, 2023
LAPLACE — In five decades of crowning queens, the annual Andouille Festival Pageant has shaped generations of young women into ambassadors for St. John the Baptist Parish culture. The red carpet will roll out for the 50th annual Andouille Pageant at 7 p.m. September 23 at St. John Theatre in Reserve.
The pageant has always been about more than glitz and glamour. The Miss and Teen Queens are tasked with representing the parish at a variety of statewide functions, including meetings with elected officials. The first to hold the crown was Bernice Monica of Garyville, 16 years old at the time the inaugural Andouille Pageant was held on October 19, 1974 at St. Joan of Arc School in LaPlace. Patricia Granier of Reserve was runner-up.
The first pageant coincided with the third annual Andouille Festival, initially organized by Frank Fagot of the LaPlace Volunteer Fire Department. While the pageant scene in St. John the Baptist Parish was already bustling between the annual St. John Sugar Queen and Reserve Jaycee Junior Miss events, the Andouille Pageant quickly garnered the attention of the community and attracted 21 participants in its first year.
Among the judges at the inaugural pageant were Alec Gifford of WVUE-TV Channel 8 and Sandra McManus, president of the River Road Historical Society. Cynthia Cambre, the first chairwoman of the pageant, was determined to have St. John Parish represented at the Mardi Gras ball in Washington D.C., a tradition that has held strong to this day with 2023 Miss Andouille Aubrey Brumfield.
Contestants initially had to be between 16 and 19 years old to qualify for the Miss Andouille title. Today, the Miss division is open to young women ages 18 to 23, while a teen division is offered for girls ages 13 to 17.
Jan Vicknair Childress, Miss Andouille 1988, said being an ambassador for the Andouille Festival and representing St. John Parish was a dream come true.
She was introduced to the Andouille industry by her father, Allen Vicknair, who spent many years working as a butcher at Don’s Country Store in Reserve.
“The knowledge my parents gave me helped me educate others throughout the parish and throughout the state,” Childress recalled. “Being a festival queen, there are so many responsibilities like attending the festivals, learning the different cultures in the area. I was fortunate enough to attend the Washington DC Mardi Gras ball and much more. There were parades, memories and friendships that last a lifetime.”
It’s been 35 years since Childress received her flowers on the pageant stage, and she’s looking forward to returning home for this year’s 50th anniversary event.
“Being that it’s the 50th year, to me it’s a little more exciting to see the past Queens and the growth of the young ladies in the parish throughout the years,” she said. “It’s the history of St. John the Baptist Parish. I hope they have it for many, many years to come.”
Brandi LeBouef also holds fond memories of the pageant as Miss Andouille 2007. It still feels like yesterday that she was traveling all corners of the state, learning about Louisiana’s different commodities and cultures.
“It’s an experience I will never forget. I think a lot of people have heard queens say you have never experienced Louisiana until you’ve seen it through the eyes of a queen. It’s a once in a lifetime thing. You truly get treated as a queen, escorted around, seeing all the parish or festival has to offer. You get to tour facilities you wouldn’t normally get to tour,” LeBouef said.
LeBouef remembers growing up and watching the Andouille Pageant as a little girl, waiting for the day she would be able to walk across the stage. It’s a dream that has transcended generations in St. John Parish.
“It’s fun to see girls in the same position that I was in, vying for a title, and follow them as they travel through the state. Many of the things that they got to experience were the same things I got to do, and some things have changed,” LeBouef said. “It’s a 50-year tradition, something people grow up looking forward to, and I think the experience these girls get learning about the state is something different that you can’t learn in a textbook.”
Applications for the 2023 Andouille Festival Pageant are currently being accepted through September 11. For more information or to download an application, go to www.andouillefestival.com.