Fireworks served as a backdrop as the new Christmas display was unveiled Friday night at the Spirit of Morgan City shrimp boat in Morgan City. (The Daily Review/Diane Miller Fears)
Lee Romaire stands in front of his donation to Morgan City, an elaborate Christmas display featuring albino alligators complete with “crab antlers,” Santa wearing “Cajun Reeboks” and a variety of elves at the Spirit of Morgan City shrimp boat. (The Daily Review/Diane Miller Fears)
Ali Estay, 8, with the help of her mom, Agnes Estay, flips the switch to illuminate the new Christmas display. (The Daily Review/Diane Miller Fears)
The display is shown during the daytime after the unveiling. (J.D. Spencer Photography)
Something new for Christmas: Romaire display unveiled
Santa, his gators and several of his elves are now Christmas fixtures for the Spirit of Morgan City shrimp boat thanks to a donation by Morgan City native Lee Romaire and his company, Romaire Studios in Los Angeles.
Cooperative weather allowed for a large turnout Friday night at the Morgan City median where the boat is featured.
The crowd was awed as Ali Estay, 8, a second-grader at Wyandotte Elementary in Morgan City, threw the switch that illuminated the display and the holiday display was unveiled. Brief fireworks soon followed.
Cajun Santa, waving from the boat’s bow, is complete with a pair of “Cajun Reeboks.” The lead alligator’s red nose is reminiscent of “Rudolph’s” that would lead the reindeer in front of the boat in years past.
The event also featured music by Sophia Besse, Hallie Autin and Gavin Wisdom of Holy Cross Church, and Lee Chapel AME Church’s Inspirational Choir.
Throughout the boat, Santa’s elves can be seen with toys and gifts.
Romaire took time before the reveal to thank his staff, family and many local residents and businesses that helped with finishing touches on the display.
He also recognized classmates and several of their family members that passed away in the past week, Larry Bergeron, Gary Duhon and Judy Landry.
Romaire, the founder and CEO of the studio bearing his name, is 52 and a 1984 graduate of Central Catholic High School.
The unveiling was held in conjunction with Morgan City’s annual Christmas lighting ceremony, which is typically on Thanksgiving night but changed this year to accommodate the unveiling.
Romaire Studios is “one of the foremost providers of live-action creatures, characters and animated props for the entertainment industry,” a news release said. Romaire, an Emmy-winning artist, founded the company in 2000.
In the Morgan City display, Cajun Santa is decked out in white shrimping boots, and his outfit has brown fur instead white fur to represent the fur industry, both of which were once prevalent in the area. Instead of reindeer, Romaire chose to create albino alligators that are more “Christmassy” than regular alligators, he said recently.
He added “crab antlers” to two of the alligators, a feature he didn’t reveal before the unveiling. Romaire named two of the alligators after prominent Morgan City residents. The largest one was named “Doc” after former Morgan City mayor, the late Dr. C.R. “Doc” Brownell, who created the first Santa Claus and reindeer for the shrimp boat. The medium-sized alligator was named “Green” after local artist, the late Robert Greenwood, who created the second Santa Claus featured in the city’s Christmas display.
Morgan City Mayor Frank “Boo” Grizzaffi thanked Romaire for his donation before the display was revealed.
Twelve to 15 artists, including moldmakers and computer design specialists, spent the past year developing the display.
Much of the work Romaire Studios does for clients is confidential.
“So it’s really fun when you’re able to actually show something that you can do and have done to share it with people,” Romaire said.
Last year, Romaire thought of the idea to create a Christmas display for his hometown while visiting Morgan City for the funeral of a family friend, who was inspirational and generous to the community.
“It just made me think that I wanted to give something back,” Romaire said.
Morgan City’s Christmas display “always inspired me as a kid because I loved that kind of thing,” he said.
Keeping the holiday spirit going was Saturday’s Christmas in the Park hosted by The Junior Auxiliary of East St. Mary and Morgan City Main Street in Lawrence Park in Morgan City.
Again the weather cooperated to allow families to take part in arts and crafts, free games and entertainment before the evening’s feature attraction, the showing of “The Star” on the big screen.