This weekend’s festival will feature Cajun fiddler Amanda Shaw

Anticipating a crowd of nearly 25,000 people, this weekend’s Alligator Festival will feature South Louisiana delicacies, crafts and a rocking entertainment lineup featuring Louisiana’s sweetheart Amanda Shaw.

“We are very excited about the Alligator Festival,” said Rotary President Eric Dishongh. “One thing we always try to emphasize to folks is it’s a family-friendly event. It’s one of the great places for children to ride rides and see their friends.”

The Rotary president also serves as Mr. Alligator, the festival ambassador, and Dishongh called it a fun part of the position.

“We’ve got a lot of friends in the parish and folks through the Rotary Club,” he said. “It’s a nice tradition, and being Mr. Alligator is a legacy I hope to continue.”

Dishongh added they always hope for nice weather to compliment the festival’s lineup of great food, rides, music and vendors.

Festival coordinator Flint Destefano agreed with the festival being about family entertainment.

“We’re going to have alligators out there and people can come pet them,” Destefano said.

This year’s 38th annual festival, held at the West Bank Bridge Park, 13825 River Road in Luling, is put on by the Rotary Club of St. Charles Parish. It begins with a preview night on Thursday and lasts until Sunday.

Destefano said 21 rides for all ages are planned throughout the weekend.

In addition to rides, alligators will be on site for children to pet.

This festival’s menu will be equally tantalizing with the return of the much-loved roasted corn along with an array of dishes for just about every taste.

Gator lovers will have their choice of alligator sauce piquante, alligator tamales and gator burgers along with classic Cajun dishes like chicken and Andouille gumbo, fried soft shell crab, as well as red beans and rice. Other specialties will include crabmeat boudin balls, crawfish bread, Philly steak and cheese and quesadillas.

Soft drinks, beer, mixed drinks, hurricanes and daiquiris also will be on sale at the festival.

For music lovers, The Wiseguys Band, one of New Orleans’ finest local bands that includes a legendary horn section, will perform its Top 40 songs, as well as R&B favorites. The group will open the festival from 8 to 11 p.m. Friday.

Saturday’s closing band will be Category 6 with its high energy state antics, amazing visuals and song list from the 1980s to today. The band will perform from 8 to 11 p.m.

Highlighting the weekend’s performances will be Amanda Shaw. This Cajun fiddler, singer and actress will rock the festival from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Sunday.

The Topcats will close the festival from 6:45 p.m. to 9 p.m. This band, has described as the “hardest working band in the New Orleans area,” with its funky music from the 60s and 70s.

Dishongh said the pay-one-price to ride all weekend is back for the second year.

On Thursday, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the pay-one-price is $15; Friday’s schedule is 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. with a $25 pay-one-price.; Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. will have a $25 pay-one-price or $65 mega armband with an all-weekend pass including Saturday night.

Some of South Louisiana’s finest crafts will be available for sale throughout the weekend.

An impressive lineup of crafters will include artist Rodney Lewis’ hand-painted pirogues and wooden art; Vera Soap Co., Louis Ochello’s carvings and leather crafts, Carter Crafts’ handcrafted wooden furniture, and Country Republic’s handcrafter costume jewelry.

Dishongh also praised the Rotary’s estimated 88 members for helping make the festival possible.

“It’s all run by volunteers,” he said. “I am definitely surrounded by a great group of people who have a serving heart – and that’s awesome.”

For those who want a memento of the festival, Distefano also praised this year’s official festival poster by Pat Bowes, a West Bank CPA and Rotary member for more than 35 years. Some 250 of them will be available for sale signed and number by the artist at $20 each.

Festival proceeds benefit the Rotary’s Scholarship Fund and several local charities.

Since 1980, the Rotary Club has awarded more than $800,000 in scholarship funds. The remaining proceeds are used to support many other community and Rotary projects, such as RYLA, The United Way of St. Charles, St. Charles Department of Parks and Recreation, Boy Scouts, Social Concerns, The Interact Club, JRROTC at the local high schools and local projects such as the walking trail and Wetland Watchers, annual Christmas Tree Lighting and the Rotary Club’s sister club in Brazil.

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