Around 25,000 people are expected to descend upon St. Charles Parish for the Rotary Club’s 32nd annual Alligator Festival. Greeting them at the West Bank Bridge Park will be 40 crafts vendors, numerous festival rides, a wide-variety of music, famous south Louisiana delicacies and even baby alligators.
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.
This year’s festival begins Thursday, Sept. 22 and lasts until Sunday, Sept. 25. While the festival is known for its authentic Cajun cuisine, there will also be plenty of rides, including roaring roller coasters for the teens and a carousel for the younger children.
5K race offered for first time
One exciting addition this year is the Alligator Stomp, a 5K race that takes runners and walkers along the scenic Mississippi River on the newly-paved levee pathway. Race registration begins Thursday at the festival at 6 p.m. and continues at 8 a.m. on Sept. 24 at the West Bank Bridge Park.
The race begins at 9:10 a.m. Race registration is $25.
There will also be a 1/2 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, will be given to top finishers.
The festival will also have a putt putt golf course and baby alligators that can be held by the public.
“It is a great opportunity to touch and hold a baby alligator without fear,” Tanya Colee, president of the Rotary Club of St. Charles Parish, said. “The kids love it and so do the adults.”
9 bands will perform
For those that want to sit in their lawn chairs and relax, there will be a wide-range of musical styles, from zydeco to country to rock ‘n’ roll.
The Wiseguys, Brandon Foret, Michael Williams, Off The Hook, Contraflow, Chris Gray, Waylon Thibodeaux, LA Kids and the Topcats are on the schedule this year.
The Topcats, who close down the festival on Sunday, have performed together for 28 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.
Contraflow, a cover band from New Orleans that specializes in 70s and 80s radio along with hard rock, close out the festival Saturday night, while 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. Forty crafts vendors will sell everything from leather goods, to home decor to handmade jewelry.
“We have wonderful jewelry, candles, clothing, natural beauty products, purses, handmade leather products, artistic paintings and much more,” Colee said. “Many items are totally unique. It is a great place to get your holiday shopping started.”
Alligator merchandise, including posters, T-shirts, and baby onesies, will be sold as well.
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.
Colee said that over the years the Alligator Festival has become a family tradition for many in St. Charles and the surrounding area.
“It is a perfect opportunity for the family to spend the day together, relax and enjoy,” she said. “The music, food and attractions all come together in a fun, family atmosphere and those who attend can feel good that their dollars are going to benefit their community.”
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 from the festival 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, visit http://www.stcharlesrotary.com and click on Alligator Festival.