More than 30,000 people are expected to descend upon Luling for the Rotary Club’s 33rd annual Alligator Festival to browse crafts from more than 30 vendors, listen to a wide variety of music and chow down on famous south Louisiana delicacies.
Foods such as crab meat bisque over a shrimp patty, andouille gumbo, crawfish with a spinach boat and pork boudin are all on the menu. Of course alligator burgers, alligator sausage, alligator fritters and alligator sauce piquant are sure to get any mouth watering.
More common offerings like burgers, barbecue and funnel cake will be available for those who want to avoid taking a walk on the culinary wild side. Mixed drinks, hurricanes and daiquiris will be sold as well.
"Eating just does not get better than this," Shelly Schonekas, president of the St. Charles Rotary Club, said. "We have over a dozen local chefs creating the very best authentic Cajun cuisine Louisiana has to offer."
This year’s festival begins Thursday, Sept. 27 and lasts until Sunday, Sept. 30. While the festival is known for its authentic Cajun cuisine, there will also be plenty of rides for those of all ages.
9 bands will perform
For those that want to sit in their lawn chairs and relax or boogie on the dance floor, there will be a wide-range of musical styles, from zydeco to country to rock ‘n’ roll.
The Topcats, Category 6, The Wiseguys, Aaron Foret, Michael Aaron and the Strays, Off The Hook, Christian Serpas & Ghost Town, Boot Hill and LA Kids are on the schedule this year.
The Topcats, who close down the festival on Sunday, have performed together for almost 30 years and were inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2005. They have been voted the "Best Cover Band in New Orleans" by Offbeat Magazine six times. The group plays music that varies from funk and disco to pop, rap and classic rock.
Category 6, who play from 8-11 p.m. on Saturday, feature Kris LaCoste, who is the former lead singer/founder of The Chee-Weez. The band showcases an elaborate and unique light show and offers a variety of music from Pink to Linkin Park. The Wiseguys, who put their own spin on popular R&B and soul hits from the 60s mixed with newer hits from today, close out the fest on Friday night.
Unique crafts for sale
While jamming out and chowing down at the festival, visitors will also be able to get in a little shopping. More than 30 crafts vendors will sell everything from leather goods to home decor to handmade jewelry.
Their will also be a psychic reader, toys, chair massages and a tattoo artist.
"We have wonderful local artist and crafters on site offering their hand crafted furniture, fine jewelry, hand painted pirogues, Native American crafts, genuine alligator products and much more," Schonekas said.
Alligator merchandise, including posters, T-shirts, and baby onesies, will be sold as well.
5K race offered
For the second year, the Alligator Stomp, a 5K race, will take runners and walkers along the scenic Mississippi River on the paved levee pathway. Race registration begins Thursday at the festival at 6 p.m. and continues at 8 a.m. on Sept. 29 at the West Bank Bridge Park.
The race begins at 9:10 a.m. and registration is $25.
There will also be a half mile race for younger children and all those who enter either race will be allowed into the festival free of charge. Registration for the youth race is $15 and the race will begin at 9 a.m. Prizes, such as commemorative posters from the festival and ride bracelets, will be given to the top finishers.
The festival will also have live baby alligators that can be held by the public.
"Playing with baby alligators is the biggest attraction at the festival," Schonekas said. "There will be between 10 to 20 alligator babies in crystal clear pools of water for players to catch, hold and let walk."
Festival gates open
at 6 p.m. on Thursday
The festival is open from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. on Thursday and from 6 p.m. until 11 p.m. on Friday.
On Saturday the festival will open at 11 a.m. and close at 11 p.m., while on Sunday it will open at 11 a.m. and close at 9 p.m.
Admission to the fest is $1.
Schonekas said that over the years the Alligator Festival has become a family tradition for many in St. Charles and the surrounding area.
"The Alligator Festival presents exciting carnival rides, live alligators, Cajun cuisine, a state-of-the-art soundstage and games for wholesome family fun," she said.
All proceeds from the festival are used to offer scholarships to parish students. Additionally, a Vocational Scholarship will be awarded to a student from each of the schools.
Additional proceeds will be utilized to fund various community programs in keeping with the Rotarian motto "Service above Self."
For a complete band schedule and the pay-one-price ride times, see the ad on page 7A or visit www.stcharlesrotary.com and click on Alligator Festival.