Louisiana has no shortage of festivals to attend, but the one on the docket for this weekend centers around one of the state’s favorite dishes, crawfish.
Breaux Bridge’s population hovers right around 8,000, but throughout the weekend, the small town draws in over 30,000 people.
The newly crowned Crawfish Festival Queen 19-year-old McKenzie Melancon has been enjoying the festival since she was young and is looking forward to serving in an official capacity during this year’s event.
“Our town thrives off the crawfish industry and it’s very important to our culture," says Melancon. "My family has participated in the Crawfish Fest for generations, so being the queen is a huge honor for me.”
One of Melancon’s duties as Queen will be to assist with the crawfish races, which are one of the festival’s most lively events. For five dollars, contestants can purchase a crawfish for which they can choose any Cajun name they feel will bring them luck.
“They’re all placed on an eight-foot circular board that resembles a target," says Melancon. "The commissioner puts all the crawfish in a bucket, turns them upside down and yells, 'Il sont partis,' which means, 'They’re off.' Everyone bangs on the bucket to get their crawfish across the finish line and whichever one crosses first wins. Crawfish are very skittish creatures so after a while they start flying across the finish line.”
Melancon will also be assisting with is the crawfish eating contest on Saturday, which is open to the public and will be held under the Heritage Tent. The event requires some serious Cajun skills, since contestants are required not only to eat as many “mudbugs” as possible, but also peel them properly.
“As part of the judging process, I pinch the shells to see if there is any meat left in them," says Angelique Bernard, festival board member since 1984. "If there’s a dead crawfish in the platter they hand it to McKenzie who exchanges it for a fresh one, because they have to every crawfish on their plate.”
The contest is often surrounded by crowds cheering on their contestant of choice and coaches wiping sweat from and providing water to their contestants. Winners are chosen by the person who can eat the heaviest weight in boiled crawfish within a 45-minute time span.
The crawfish eating is officially kicked off after the opening ceremonies on Friday when The Celebrity Crawfish Eating Contest is held. The contest features local TV and radio personalities, past Crawfish queens and government officials, who compete to see who can eat three pounds of crawfish the fastest.
Throughout the weekend, five dance lessons will be offered and festivalgoers can take part in two different dance contests for a chance to win gift packages and prizes.
“Those lessons are packed," says Bernard. "They’re held under the Breaux Bridge tent and it’s so cute, because at the end the teacher shows the man how to bow to his lady. I’ve seen people leave and go out on the dance floor to practice what they learned.”
This year’s festival will feature over 20 food vendors and dishes will range from traditional boiled crawfish to crawfish spinach boats, crawfish pistolettes and crawdogs, which are hot dogs covered in crawfish etouffee.
Bernard has been attending the festival since her childhood and is pleased with the way it has evolved over the years.
“I remember, after I graduated high school the festival was still held in downtown, and in the 90s it moved to the park," says Bernard. "It’s better to have it there because it’s more controlled and allows for a better family environment. There has been a steady increase in attendance over the past couple of years, so we’re hoping to keep that going this year, but if not we’re happy with what we’ve gotten in the past.”
Admission on Friday and Sunday is five dollars and admission on Saturday is ten dollars.
For more information about this year’s festival, visit bbcrawfest.com or call 337-332-6655.
- Derby on the Sqaure, Sat., May 6, 2 p.m. – 6 p.m. Lafayette
Come to POUR Restaurant and Bar for an exclusive viewing party of the 2017 Kentucky Derby Day. Dress to impress in your best derby day hats and linen suits for a chance to win best dressed prizes for the best derby attire and hats. Live music will be played between races, and Mint Juleps, champagne, and hors d'oeuvres provided.
All proceeds benefit Boys and Girls Clubs of Acadiana and Dreams Come True of Louisiana.
- Architects of Sound, Sun., May 7, 3 p.m. – 4:30 p.m., Lafayette
Join Acadiana Symphony Orhcestra for music from some of the greatest composers of all time.
The show will be performed by leading American pianist, James Dick, and the ASO string trio.
- Mother’s Day Trunk Show, Sun., May 7, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. Baton Rouge
Check out this Trunk Show to find a perfect Mother’s Day gift and enjoy free admission to the LSU Museum of Art during First Free Sunday.
- Idea Speed Dating at Jefferson Street Pub, Thurs., May 11, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. Lafayette
If you have an idea about how to better the community but aren’t exactly sure how to get it done, the 24 Hour Citizen Project is looking to connect you with the expertise, key decision makers and financial backers needed to make your idea a reality.
To prepare for the May 11 pitching event, a speed dating-style, idea generation session will be held at Jefferson Street Pub.