Cypress Sawmill Festival -- Crowd estimated at 30,000 for 3-day event held to support museum

PATTERSON, La. — The 30,000 or so visitors to the three-day 23rd annual Cypress Sawmill Festival at Kemper Williams Park got to see lots of entertainment, eat lots of food and got an up close look at some of the artifacts featured at the Louisiana State Museum in Patterson.

The festival began as a fundraiser to build a new museum in Patterson by founder and festival chairman David Bourdier.

“The crowds have been larger than we’ve ever had, beautiful weather, no problems, no trouble at all. Everybody’s out having a good time with their family. That’s what this festival’s all about,” Bourdier said.

Jojo Hebert of Baldwin and Gert Naquin of Jeanerette came to the festival Saturday to listen to a friend play in one of the bands but also to just enjoy the whole experience. “We come because it’s a lot of fun out here. You get different kinds of food and all that,” Hebert said.

“They got everything out here. Anything you want to eat, enjoy the company and have fun,” Hebert said.

The size of the festival has grown exponentially since it began in 1990. “I never dreamed it would be the size it is now,” Bourdier said.

Several years after the festival started, the City of Patterson was named the Cypress Capital of Louisiana, Bourdier said. The Louisiana State Museum in Patterson, featuring the Cypress Sawmill Collection and Wedell Williams Aviation Collection, was completed in 2005.

At the festival Old Engine display, individuals showcased engines from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, as well as the museum’s 1920 International Harvester tractor powering a shingle mill from 1888.

David Prejean of Addis, who belongs to Bayou Old Engine club, demonstrated how the shingle mill and tractor worked. “It starts on gasoline and runs on kerosene, and today we’re using it to drive a shingle mill,” said Prejean said. They made shingles from the pieces of plywood log all day Saturday at the festival, he said.

The club comes to the festival each year and continues to carry on the tradition of its founder Dick Gibbens, who recently died, Prejean said. Prejean also demonstrated his personal 1903 Wade drag saw also used to cut logs.

KQKI in Bayou Vista hosted the 32nd Texaco Country Showdown local competition Friday night at the festival. Jacob Griffin, 23, of Ponchatoula, won the local contest and will go on to compete in the state final for a chance to win $1,000, according to a KQKI news release.

The Country Showdown is America’s largest country music talent search and radio promotion. State winners will go on to regional competitions, where regional winners will then get the chance to receive an all-expense paid trip to the national competition and a chance to win the $100,000 grand prize and national title.

The All-American Lumberjack Show, all the way from Stillwater, Minn., demonstrated the 10 different lumberjack events they compete professionally in throughout the country.

Professional lumberjack competitors Jamie Fischer, a 13-time lumberjack national champion, and Nate Greenburg, a three-time national champion, demonstrated the different sawing, throwing, climbing and water events in which they compete.

They have brought their show to the festival for the past six or seven years, Fischer said. Fischer started log rolling, a lumberjack sport, when he was 2 years old, he said.

The festival has raised about $100,000 over its 23 years to go toward the museum and the festival, Bourdier said.

The Cypress Sawmill Festival Car Show was also in its 23rd year. The show has gone from three cars its first year to about 90 cars this year, said car show organizer Bill Picou. Trophies were handed out for People’s Choice, voted on by all registered participants, the Sponsor’s award, voted on by Napa Auto Parts representatives and an award for “Rattiest Rat Rod,” a trophy Picou makes himself, he said.

A 1940 Ford Coupe, owned by Killer Thompson of New Iberia, won the People’s Choice award. Thompson, 72, has been showing cars since he was 18, he said. His 1940 Ford Coupe was redone to have the look of a 1960s model, Thompson said.

“The frame is all made just like a brand new car would be made,” Thompson said. The car has all the amenities of a new car including air conditioning, he said.

The festival also featured a passé partout, two-person saw contest, among the visiting queens to the festival, a softball tournament and lots of rides at the street fair over the weekend.

St. Mary Now & Franklin Banner-Tribune

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