Summer festivals provide fun -- and funds -- to Avoyelles communities

The summer festival season is over, and most of the annual events reported numerous visitors and vendors to make the events successful as well as fun.

Of course, scheduling anything in the summer runs the risk of summer thunderstorms. The Moreauville Farm Festival, making a comeback after a two-year absence, was rained out. The parade went on even in the downpour.

The other summer festivals benefited from good weather, for the most part.

These community events not only provide an opportunity for local families to spend time together enjoying the pleasures of festivals, but they also bring in out-of-parish visitors to experience the benefits Avoyelles has to offer, Avoyelles Tourism Director Wilbert Carmouche noted.

The festivals not only serve to support the various organizations that sponsor them, but also help the parish economy through sales taxes paid at the festival or in traveling to and from Avoyelles, he added.

“These festivals have a very positive economic impact on our communities,” Carmouche said. “They increase the occupancy in our hotels and RV parks, the spending in our communities and the tax base for our local governments.

“They also raise the spirit of our people by instilling pride in the community,” he continued. “People get excited about their local festival.”

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, speaking recently in Marksville, said tourism -- which includes local festivals and events -- has a 40-to-1 return on the investment. That means for every $1 spent to promote tourism, the community receives $40.

Proceeds from the various festivals throughout the year are used for civic projects and improvements.

For example, the Cochon de Lait complex was purchased and improved with profits from that festival.

The two Wagon Wheel monuments welcoming visitors to Marksville were purchased with funds of the city’s 190th anniversary celebration. Hessmer’s festival proceeds are used to maintain and improve its recreation complex. Bordelonville’s community festivals support its community center.

Holiday festivals in Ward 1 support that area’s walking trail and other projects while the Moncla festival supports the community center and local theater group.

What the financial figures presented by festival organizers do not show is the amount spent by visitors on food, beverages and items purchased from vendors at that festivals. Those figures also do not show the economic impact of those vendors purchasing their supplies from local stores or the gasoline and other items purchased by visitors while in the parish.

AAMF

A high heat warning didn’t stop a large number of 4th of July revelers from descending on downtown Marksville to celebrate Independence Day at the 6th Annual Avoyelles Arts & Music Festival (AAMF).

“The turnout was great, the music was fantastic and everyone had a great time, despite it being very hot outside,” AAMF Co-Chair Van Roy said. “The heat was brutal this year.”

When contacted this past Wednesday, Roy did not have an estimate on the number of persons attending the festival nor any indication on the amount spent on food, beverages and other vendor items.

“To be honest, we’re still digging out from under the trash,” Roy said with a laugh.

The AAMF is funded by sponsors and does not charge an admission fee or sell tickets for the musical concerts.

BASH ON THE BAYOU

The Simmesport Volunteer Fire Department’s “Bash on the Bayou” had a successful first effort on July 1 at Yellow Bayou Memorial Park.

Attendance figures and an estimate on how much the VFD raised were not available.

ZYDECO & BLUES
The 26th annual Zydeco & Blues Festival in Cottonport also had an uninvited guest in the form of a summer shower “that put a damper on things,” event organizer Emile Celestine said.

The three-day event was over the Father’s Day weekend, June 16-18, at the Squeeze Box Lounge. Saturday is a family-friendly community festival with live bands and DJ musical entertainment during the day on the grounds outside the lounge.

“The festival went well and everyone there had a nice time,” Celestine said. “There was a good atmosphere.”

Celestine said there is no admission charge for the festival. Any money collected during the live concert part of the event went to the bands.

“This is not a money-making venture,” Celestine said, adding that it is meant to be a time for the community to come together and enjoy good music.

CORN FESTIVAL

Bunkie Chamber of Commerce President Lele Soileau said this year’s Louisiana Corn Festival made a profit of approximately $20,000. The three-day event was held June 8-10.

“It could be one of the best, if not the best, festival we have ever had,” Soileau said. “We are very pleased with the final outcome of the festival.”

Soileau said good weather helped make the festival a success. Other factors were popular bands, a car show, the hard work of about 60 festival volunteers and the generosity of sponsors.

“Everything came together for us this year,” she noted.

The car show had over 200 entries and was a popular attraction for visitors during the festival. Even though the car show was held away from the festival grounds, many of the visitors to the show also attended the festival, Soileau said.

Corn Festival Chairwoman Tiffany Tuminello said organizers of the three largest festivals -- Cochon de Lait, Arts & Music and Corn -- “work closely together to help promote each other.”

TUNICA-BILOXI POW WOW
Another long-running event is the Tunica-Biloxi Pow Wow. The event has moved inside the Mari Center of the Paragon Casino Resort, but still contains the pomp and ceremony of the outdoor events held for many years at the Joseph Pierite Pow Wow Grounds on the reservation.

The 22nd Pow Wow was held May 20-21 and attracted representatives of more than 50 Native American tribes from across the nation, competing in dance, song and drum contests.

John Barbry, director of development & programming, said about 5,000 visitors attended the Pow Wow this year.

COCHON de LAIT
Approximately 15,000 people visited Mansura over the four-day Cochon de Lait Festival, May 11-14.

Festival Coordinator Nicky Bordelon said the Mansura Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the event, made a profit this year -- for the 31st consecutive year -- but the final totals are not in.

Weather during those four days probably affected the festival attendance, but Bordelon said he was pleased with the results.

“Every year people come from across the parish, state and country to attend the festival and we are happy to see them year after year,” Bordelon said.

The festival relies heavily on sponsorship in order to provide some activities for free or for reduced fees.

“Sponsors, along with the hard working Chamber members and volunteers, are the key to a successful festival and the Chamber appreciates their continued support.”

The Cochon de Lait Festival not only acts as a fundraiser for the Mansura Chamber, but also for other nonprofit organizations.

The Avoyelles Bayou Bikers (ABB) work at the beer booth to support children’s hospitals, such as Shriner’s in Shreveport and Children’s in New Orleans. The Avoyelles Animal Welfare Society and the
Mansura Lion’s Club rely on the festival to raise funds for their causes.

“The economic impact of this festival is felt throughout the parish,” Chamber Treasurer Rebecca Lemoine said, “The Mansura Chamber of Commerce is proud to host this long-standing event.”

CAJUN CROSSROADS
The summer festival season began the evening of May 5 with the first batter in the adult T-ball tournament at the Cajun Crossroads Festival in Hessmer. The festival continued all day May 6.

“The festival has been getting bigger and better every year,” Hessmer Sports Club President Shawn Gagnard said.

The event began in 2015 to mark Hessmer’s 60th anniversary as a municipality and to dedicate the Ronald N. Mayeux Recreation Complex, which the village purchased from the Avoyelles School Board earlier that year.

“The Sports Club made about $11,000,” Gagnard said. Approximately 1,000 people turned out to watch the T-ball tournament, eat BBQ, shop the vendors and attend the fireworks display to end the event May 6.

Proceeds from that festival are used to maintain and improve the baseball park and other parts of the recreation complex.

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