New queens will reign over this year’s Louisiana Catfish Festival at St. Gertrude Catholic Church in Des Allemands.
On June 18, contestants gathered at the Father Mac Community Center in three categories: Miss, Teen and Junior.
After hours of fierce but poised competition, three girls left with titles.
Taylor Petit, 18, will hold the title of Miss Queen of the festival for the coming year. She will get to travel all over state and will have the rare opportunity to enjoy Mardi Gras in Washington D.C. next year.
“I am so excited about going to the (D.C.) Mardi Gras ball,” Petit said. “I was also very excited to win, but very surprised.”
This is the first major competition that Petit has competed in the adult category. She was named 2nd at the St. Charles Farm Bureau pageant a few years ago, but other than that she had only competed in pageants as a child. In fact, she said that when she was much younger she won the Baby Catfish pageant.
Petit will be representing St. Charles Parish at festivals throughout Louisiana and while she attends college at Southeastern Louisiana University this fall. She plans to major in nursing and work towards a Master’s degree in pediatric nursing. She is the daughter of Angela and Clifford Fenerty. In May, she graduated from Hahnville High School where she was on Student Council, Science Olympiad, and the Hi Stepper dance team and graduated in the top eight of her class.
One of Petit’s team members on the Hahnville Hi Steppers was named the Teen Queen in the Catfish Festival Pageant.
Marissa Landry is a junior at HHS and said she has dreamed of winning the Catfish pageant for years.
“I’ve been waiting to run for this since I was five when I won the Little Catfish Queen,” Landry said. “It was very nerve-racking in front of all the people, but in the end it’s all worth it.”
Landry said she cannot wait to represent the Catfish Festival with all of her heart at other festivals across the state. She is the daughter of Dirk and Laura Landry.
Eleven-year-old Aubrey Cornwell went home with the Junior Queen title on Saturday. Cornwell said that she had the opposite of stage fright.
“I was nervous at first, but when I got on stage I wasn’t nervous anymore,” she said.
Cornwell said she is excited to visit other parishes and have fun representing the festival. Cornwell is a student at St. Mary’s Nativity School in Raceland and lives in Des Allemands. She is the daughter of Leah Matherne and Doyle Cornwell.
Olive Dufrene, a diligent volunteer and community member, was named this year’s Granny Catfish Queen.
“Granny Catfish Queen is a hard-working parishioner from the parish of St. Gertrude Church who has been dedicating their time and energy to working the festival for many, many years,” said Pageant Director Lydia Dempster.
Dufrene has lived in Des Allemands for over 50 years and has been married for 64 years. She has been working at the festival since its inception in 1975.
Dempster said that this year’s event went just as well as past years.
“The pageant is always very fast-paced and goes well,” Dempster said.
This year’s pageant had a jungle theme, which was reflected in the animal-print sportswear that the girls wore.
Girls who compete in the pageant have to be strong and diligent to win, Dempster said.
“You have to be a very strong character for pageants because only one girl can walk away with the crown,” she said. “Persistence is the key. You have to work hard and you have to be able to take constructive criticism.”
Dempster said that while being in a pageant takes a lot of work, it will be worth it to those who compete.
“The new girls that have won are going to be the ambassadors for our festival,” she said. “They will be eating strawberries, learning about all the different traditions throughout the state, about the State of Louisiana’s heritage and more…they will be seeing Louisiana through all new eyes.
“It’s an honor and privilege to be a Festival Queen.”