Fairs and festivals are back in Louisiana, as Governor John Bel Edwards recently announced loosened coronavirus restrictions for the state. The announcement means that several St. Charles Parish organizations are planning to hold their own local and beloved fairs and festivals.
“The Rotary Club of St. Charles Parish was ecstatic and relieved to learn we could move forward with this year’s Alligator Festival,” Alligator Festival and Rotary Club spokesperson Kelsey Pollock said. “Canceling last year’s festival was devastating to our club and the community. We are beyond excited to bring back the festival that our community knows and loves bigger and better than ever.”
Pollock said the festival – to be held Sept. 23-26 – is important to St. Charles Parish in many ways.
“The proceeds from the Alligator Festival benefit scholarships for Destrehan and Hahnville High School seniors,” she said. “The Rotary Club of St. Charles Parish has awarded over $900,000 in scholarships since our first festival in 1980, making us the largest private scholarship provider in the parish. Our festival is also a major tourism event for our parish which in turn boosts our local economy.”
Pollock said a core Rotary value is “building goodwill and better friendships,” and that is exactly what the Alligator Festival does.
“Friends and family meet up at our festival to enjoy delicious food, dance to live music, ride the amusement rides, play with baby alligators – all while making memories with the people that mean the most to them,” she said. “After a hard year of having to spend time apart from one another, we are excited to have the opportunity to bring the community of St. Charles Parish back together in a fun way.”
Alligator Festival Chairman Eric Dishongh said the planning committee is determined to present an “as normal as possible” Alligator Festival experience, all while following all of the state guidelines that are in place at the time of the festival.
In another local fall event announcement, Executive Director for United Way of St. Charles John Dias said a 2021 Battle for the Paddle is being planned.
“Our decision is to hold it if the governor’s mandates allow us to,” he said. “As long as we can hold it in a way that is compliant and seems common-sense safe, we will. We’re planning to hold it unless something else happens.”
Battle for the Paddle, the world’s largest jambalaya and gumbo cook-off, is held annually on the first Thursday in October and serves as the official kick-off for the United Way of St. Charles fundraising campaign.
The 2020 Battle for the Paddle cancellation marked the first time the event has been cancelled in its 19-year history. The date for the 2021 Battle for the Paddle is Oct. 7.
“We get 140 teams or so out there that cook gumbo or jambalaya,” Dias said. “It’s open to the public and a band comes on at 5 … it’s a good time. We’ve had 7,000 people out there at the biggest year.”
Destrehan Plantation Executive Director Tracy Smith said the Destrehan Plantation Fall Festival is definitely on for 2021, with the event being planned for Nov. 13 and 14.
“Destrehan Plantation has been a part of the St. Charles Parish Community since its inception, and now more than ever we need community support to help us continue the mission of “Preserving and Telling the History of Destrehan Plantation,” he said. “Our continued survival depends on it.”