In 1973 a group of civic-minded citizens gathered in Larose and formed the Bayou Civic Club with one simple purpose – to encourage and promote community. They held a festival, the Bouillabaisse Festival, in order to generate funds for the group's ambitious plans.
They achieved their goals and ultimately secured grounds on which they constructed and furnished a multi-use facility known as the Larose Civic Center.
Over the years that little festival has morphed and grown into the French Food Festival we all know and love.
Can you believe that this weekend our little festival is getting older and will be 42 years old?
For a festival to endure nearly half a century, there has to be some magic or secret formula. There has to be some great entertainment or a signature food item that keeps the crowds coming year after year. Well, there’s a secret … it's the people that really make the festival.
The hugely successful French Food Festival takes hundreds of people working thousands of hours to organize, plan and execute. Under the permanent pavilion which was completed in 2010, multiple-generations of families help to cook and serve the Cajun delicacies the festival was founded to preserve.
“Many of the dedicated and wonderful people in our area come together to volunteer and help,” says Jasmine Ayo, Executive Director of the Larose Civic Center. “Community participation shows just how committed everyone is to keeping our culture, customs, food and the LCC alive and well today.”
Julia Cheramie Matherne is one of those dedicated volunteers. At 92, she is a regular volunteer at the Civic Center, but believe it or not, she is not the oldest. She can be found peeling shrimp or crabs to be used in the many dishes at the festival. Julia enjoys the prep work but she mostly enjoys making tarts. Julia loves to make dozens of tarts-a-la-bouille which she donates and sells in the Sweet Shop staffed with many of her friends from her senior citizens group. Yes … the Sweet Shop is both stocked and staffed by members of the Larose Senior Citizens Center, which is housed at the Civic Center.
Every year the group makes the delicious items they sell in the Sweet Shop. Julia has been baking and selling her tarts since the beginning when the Fest was just a small affair and its age was in the single digits. One special tart she makes gets auctioned every year. It's no ordinary tart – she makes a massive tart roughly the size of a large pizza.
“My mom showed me how to make the crust and the custard when I was young. I would bake with her and she taught me everything she knew,” says Matherne. “If I can put my two feet on the ground, then I am baking my tarts and coming to volunteer.”
Julia's work ethic is indicative of the people in South Lafourche. It truly is the hard working volunteers that bring the festival to life. Without them, many of the items on the festivals to-do list would go unchecked.
“Our Grand Marshal this year, Mr. Gerald Harlan ‘Rock’ Pellegrin, is here building booths and getting signs hung under the Pavilion. Many other volunteers have already started cataloging and organizing the many ingredients, cooking utensils, trash bags, paper goods and auction items. It truly is a community affair,” says Ayo. “Our festival succeeds because of the extreme dedication from our dedicated family of volunteers throughout our community,” she added.
Aside from the plethora of food choices and numerous carnival rides and games, there are folk-life demonstrations, crackling or graton making demonstrations, the Mid South Pro-Tour Bull Riding Finals, Extreme Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Tournament, Cake Decorating Contest, Amateur Boxing Throwdown, and the Les Artistes du Bayou Art Show and Exhibit, which is always a crowd favorite!
This year the festival welcomes some new food items including deep friend pork spare ribs, artichoke dip with crabmeat as well as pizza sticks and ice cream.
And don’t forget the music! Great, local bands will be playing under the Pavilion on the main stage all weekend including Clustafunk, Drunk Punch Ponies, Zoso and Contraflow, just to name a few.
In its second year, the Midway Stage in the park features Friday and Saturday music from Tug Boat Tony & The Pushers as well as Ruff N Ready and Gunpowder & Lead.
This is the fourth year for French Food Fest Rocks, a Thursday-night kick-off concert event featuring several opening bands followed by our headliner .38 Special, the multi-award winning 80’s rock band.
“We are excited to welcome 38 Special as our Thursday night headliner this year,” said Ayo. “General Admission tickets are just $25 and VIP packages are still available for one of the biggest concert events to happen on the bayou since, well, Bret Michaels last year,” she says excitedly.
To learn more about the French Food Festival or to purchase tickets for French Food Fest Rocks featuring .38 Special, visit www.frenchfoodfest.com or call the Larose Civic Center at (985) 693-7355.
Posted on Tue, October 20, 2015
by Marc C. Kimball Contributing Writer