Everybody’s heard that old joke: I went to the fights and a hockey game broke out. Still funny after all these years.
Well, here’s a new twist on the old saw: What if you went to the fights and a crawfish festival broke out?
Maybe you’ve heard the news. There was pandemonium abound on Saturday evening when not one, not two, but eight – count them, eight – altercations were recorded that night at the Louisiana Crawfish Festival in Chalmette.
It was the final scuffle, somewhere between 7 and 8 p.m., that lit up the carnival runway more than any of the swirling lights on the rides spinning above the crowd. In fact, video shows many folks were nearly clipped by the twirling arms of some of the rides.
It was like the hall of mirrors meets the bumper cars inside a haunted house. People running crazy, bodies crashing into and over each other in all directions, people getting knocked over and crawfishing towards the closest cover or shelter for safety. (Pun definitely intended.) Amazingly, only two people were hospitalized – two teens – who were subsequently released.
Apparently the frenzy began when two young men began to scuffle at the base of one of the rides on the festival grounds. And let me remind you, it was the eighth such incident among young attendees at the festival on Saturday.
Maybe people were just venting their frustration at being indoors for so long. Maybe beer was involved. Maybe it was an old score to settle. Maybe somebody tried to cut the line. Or maybe it was just stupid being stupid.
And when the blows started connecting, the crowd backed away and broke into panic. Word quickly spread that a gun had been brandished and shots had been fired (According to St. Bernard Parish law enforcement authorities, that didn’t happen.)
It’s that old adage: You can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater. Except this time there were a lot more people in that crowd than at a theater. Festival organizers said more than 100,000 people attended the event over the weekend – a good draw – most of them peaceful and happy to be outside and gorging on mud bugs and catching up with family and friends.
But some folks apparently found the lights and noise and the clanging of rides and the howling carny booth operators underwhelming and decided to create their own excitement. Very little information has been release about the seven kerfuffles prior to the rampage that busted the place loose. If there were arrests, they were not reported. Nor the causes of the unusually violent day at the fair.
Maybe there was too much Zatarain’s and garlic in the boil. Who knows?
Needless to say, the reaction of the crowd was not an effective means of social distancing. Not at all. It was a frenzied mob all scrunched together, everyone screaming their heads off into each others’ faces.
Come to think of it, that sounds just like most of the rides at the festival.
News accounts and videos posted online were pretty graphic. It obviously could have turned out much worse. But one vital piece of information was largely missing from news coverage over the weekend.
How were the crawfish?