At one time, it had men wrestling real live alligators. Then there were the alligator beauty queen contests.
Yes, the annual Alligator Festival has brought some memorable moments to St. Charles Parish. It will be held next week from Thursday through Sunday at West Bank Bridge Park.
It was in the early eighties that members of St. Charles Rotary Club were looking for a way to earn money for use in civic projects. The alligator had just been taken off the endangered species list and a month-long annual alligator hunting season was legalized in September.
“Let’s start an Alligator Festival,” one member said. “We can serve alligator dishes and help to build an alligator industry in Louisiana.”
And so it went. One of our state’s most plentiful reptiles became the feature of the event which has become a big money-maker for many civic groups in the parish. Other clubs besides Rotary sell food and products.
The first Alligator Festival was held at Willowdale Country Club. It was small with only alligator sauce piquant and fried alligator on the menu. Rotarians themselves cut up the gators and cooked the food.
While at Willowdale, the festival featured wrestling between fully grown gators and men. This was discontinued later due to complaints from animal lovers since the gators’ mouths were taped.
In later years, smaller gators with different colored ribbons around their necks were put on display and visitors voted for the most beautiful. The winner was paraded proudly through the crowd.
The annual event was later moved to the Holy Family Church parking lot in Hahnville, then to land in front of and near Coronado Park Subdivision in Luling and finally to the bridge park which is an ideal location, easy to reach by the many out-of-parish visitors.
Delicious gator burgers have been added to the menu. One of the biggest attractions today, in addition to the food, is the music. A variety of popular bands keep the dancers swinging throughout the festival.
If you’re looking for entertainment next week, there’s no better place to get it than at the Alligator Festival. Call up your relatives and friends in Iowa and tell them they can eat some alligator while listening to good cajun music down here in the bayou country.
The Alligator and Catfish Festivals have helped to put St. Charles Parish on the map. They are both worthy events that deserve our support.