No rain, orderly crowds for Louisiana Shrimp & Petroleum Festival
MORGAN CITY, La. — After three years of bad weather around Labor Day, the 78th annual Louisiana Shrimp & Petroleum Festival got a break in 2013. While it was hot and humid, festival organizers think this year’s edition may have seen crowds rivaling the festival’s 75th anniversary year.
Nathalie Weber, festival board president, said without a gate or paid entry it is hard to judge the crowd size but this year was definitely one of the best attended festivals.
“I think everything was wonderful; everything ran smoothly,” Weber said.
Lee Delaune, festival executive director, said there were about 160 booths registered this year for the festival; 138 of them for arts and crafts. With one day left at the five-day festival, Delaune said the crowd appears to be about the same as the 2010 festival. That year was the festival’s Diamond Jubilee celebration of 75 years in existence.
“We have some really great booths that are selling some high quality merchandise,” Delaune said.
No Louisiana festival would be complete without plenty of food and the Shrimp and Petroleum Festival is no exception.
Oregon native and recent arrival from Miami, U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Dave McClellan can attest to that as he attended his first Morgan City festival.
“I had a really great time at the festival … and you will not go hungry. I don’t think I can eat another shrimp,” McClellan said. McClellan is the new commanding officer of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit in Morgan City.
“The community is really involved in this festival. It is the best festival for a community this size that I have ever seen,” McClellan said.
Louis Tamporello Jr., board commissioner and city councilman, classified the crowds as large but quiet and laid back. With the larger crowds came more vehicles and crowded parking spaces, he said.
Delaune said this did not pose any significant problems.
“People were parked in every crack and crevice but I did not hear of any complaints,” he said. “Everybody seemed to be OK.”
Delaune said there was a good crowd from the beginning of the festival when it opened on Thursday with a family-oriented pay-one-price offering on carnival rides. There will be similar pay-one-price sessions today from noon to 4 p.m. and again from 5 to 9 p.m.
The good start on Thursday was followed by even greater crowds on Friday.
“There were 8,000 to 10,000 people in the park Friday night,” Delaune said.
Weber said there were about 700 people for the Sunday Mass in the park along with a record number of boats in the Sunday parade in which 50 pleasure craft, eight shrimp boats and seven tug boats were blessed by the Rev. Gregory Fratt, pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Morgan City.
Morgan City Police Chief Travis Crouch said a strong police presence helped keep the crowd orderly.
“I am out here patrolling with my officers, and I have Patterson Police Chief Patrick LaSalle with his officers out here tonight,” Crouch said on Sunday night. “We have officers helping us from the Berwick, Franklin, Thibodaux and Jeanerette police departments as well as state Alcohol and Tobacco Control officers and officers from the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Narcotics.”
Crouch said that even with the large crowds, there have been few festival-related incidents or arrests. Most of those have been alcohol related. The murder on Friday night was not related to the festival, Crouch said.
Delaune said the success of this year’s festival is influencing people’s vacationing plans for next year.
“I have spoken to people at Lake End Park and they are telling me they are reserving spaces in the park right now for next year,” Delaune said.
Clarence Robinson, president of the 100 Black Men of St. Mary, said the good weather contributed to a successful 5K Run/Walk on Saturday.
He said 126 people participated in the 16th annual Marcus Jones/100 Black Men of St. Mary Parish event that is used to raise funds for post-secondary scholarships benefiting public school students in St. Mary Parish.
Robinson said a student from each of the six public high schools’ last graduating class was awarded a $750 scholarship from 100 Black Men of St. Mary Parish, and the group is looking to increase that amount to $1,000 for this year’s graduating class. He said much of the success of the event and the scholarship is attributed to the several sponsors that help put on the annual event at the festival.
Robinson said more information about the scholarship and the group can be found at www.100blackmenstmary.org.
Robinson provided the following results from the run, which he said all participants completed.
—First place: Kevin Castille, 41, of Lafayette, with a time of 14:08; second, Peter Alleman, with a time of 17:23; third, Sal Grizzaffi with a time of 17:26.
—First, Ellen Mendoza, 31, of Carencro, with a time of 20:08; second, Jeri St. Blon with a time of 21:22; third, Rebecca Fontenot with a time of 22:35.