louisiana’s lesser-Known Celebrations
Louisiana is always in a constant state of celebration somewhere in the state. We celebrate things from the food we like, music we dance to, and pretty much anything else we can think of to be happy about. And with the plethora of fests comes the oddballs of the group. Almost every fest has lots of food, live music, vendors selling crafts, beauty pageants and fun, but these have something extra; giant entrees, competitions, and even death reenactments, just to name a few things.
Many festivals celebrate our unique worldfamous cuisine like gumbo, jambalaya, but only one celebrates the size of the food. The Giant Omelette Celebration in Abbeville, slated for Nov. 5 and 6, brings together chefs who craft an omelette made using five thousand eggs plus one more egg every year the fest is held (27 this year) and other ingredients like 50 pounds of butter and a whole lot of seasonings. Everyone gets a piece of this giant dish when it’s done. On a smaller scale, the Cracklin’ Fest in Port Barre, near Opelousas, has been celebrated in mid-November since the ‘80s. Along with the typical fair events is the Cracklin’ Cookoff in which teams use time honored recipes and a little showmanship to compete for the chance to be named the best cracklin’ cook. The competition is divided into novice chefs and seasoned pros. The Smoked Meat Fest in Ville Platte (or Le Festivale de la Viande Boucanee in its native Cajun French) is held on the last full weekend of June each year. Begun by the local chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America, the fest holds the World Championship Smoked Meat Cookoff for amateurs and professionals. The meat allowed into the contest can range from traditional meats like sausage, deer, and pig to less usual things like tasso, rabbit, and even fish is acceptable. There are plenty of activites while you wait for the judging like other food, a pageant and F-15 jet flyovers.
Our food contains a rich mixture of recipes, spices and techniques from many different cultures. No other festival represents that fact quite as well as the Zwolle Tamale Fest. The town of Zwolle sits close to the Texas border, and annually celebrates their region’s cultural blend of Spanish and Native American ancestry. The fest includes the usual entertainment lineup of music, games and rides, pageants, and vendors, but with the added bonus of a tamale making con test.
The most delectable hot tamale wins. If you prefer just eating them, there is also a tamale eating contest. This fest doesn’t quite celebrate food, but a beloved condiment that enhances cuisine. The Cajun Hot Sauce Festival, which took place in early April in New Iberia in Cajun country, hosts a hot sauce cooking contest and judges the sauces in categories like best green sauce, best habanero sauce, best specialty sauce, and overall best hot sauce. Booth décor is taken into consideration also when being judged for the prizes.
Many Louisianans have a harsh perspective on big oil right now, but that hasn’t stopped Morgan City’s Shrimp and Petroleum Fest held on Labor Day Weekend. Although it originally honored just the seafood industry, the fest eventually included the booming oil industry that gave jobs to locals, because it had become entwined in the city’s welfare. The festival has also garnered the title of the oldest state chartered harvest festival. The festival has a variety of events like a golf tournament, a 5K run, Children’s Day, arts and crafts and enough shrimp to rival any other Louisiana city.
Not all of our celebrations involve land or water. Kite Fest Louisiane in Port Allen, close to Baton Rouge, was held in early April. Look to the sky to see amazing professional kite flying and team choreography events. There are lessons to help you learn how to make, fly, and decorate and decorate a kite too. Also in the capital city is the Pennington Balloon Championship, which will be held on August 6-8 this year. The fest offers amazing views of dozens of giant hot air balloons floating in the sky. At night, the balloons do synchronized light shows. You will also get to see bands, fireworks and parachute teams soaring over the land.
One festival that isn’t well known, but possibly the most unique claims that it doesn’t celebrate its namesake; it is merely a look into an event in history that took two lives. The Bonnie and Clyde Festival in Gibsland, in the north of the state, holds an event every year on the weekend closest to May 23rd, the date of the assassination of the infamous gun-slinging thieves Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Along with the traditional food and music, the town hosts reenactments of heists the couple pulled culminating in the fateful car chase, then gunning down of Bonnie and Clyde at the actual site where police ambushed them decades ago. There are no real bullets today, of course; just great acting by the Public Enemies Reenactment Group. The action-packed fest also includes live entertainment, a Bonnie and Clyde look-alike contest, and visits from the couple’s relatives.
Attending festivals in towns small or large helps you learn about the state’s diverse culture as well as meeting and enjoying your fellow Louisianians. Check out what’s going on around the state like Contraband Days in Lake Charles, the Wooden Boat Fest in Madisonville, or even the Frog Fest in Rayne. There are far too many festivals to mention here, but for a full listing all of the festivals Louisiana has to offer, you can buy the Louisiana Fesitvals And Events Calendar at retailers around town, or online at www.louisiana-festivals.com.