Louisiana Shrimp & Festival over, city returning to normal
MORGAN CITY, La. — This morning, Morgan City reverts to the oil city it is for 360 days out of the year as the five-day celebration known as the Louisiana Shrimp & Petroleum Festival is over.
The street sweeper was humming a post-festival requiem this morning along Front Street with the rising sun reflecting off ripples of the Atchafalaya River. Along Freret Street, workers were removing the advertising logos and signs off the fence near Children’s Village. While on Third Street, the tents of food vendors were being disassembled.
Labor Day concludes the festival each year and that final day is usually a slow, laid back day. This year was no exception.
Festival executive director Lee Delaune said the crowd did seem to be perhaps a little larger and appeared to include more out-of-towners savoring the last hours of the festival.
Midway through the final day, festival board member Louis Tamporello Jr. said the problems of the 2013 festival were minor and to be expected of a successful, well-attended festival anywhere.
As Morgan City Police Chief Travis Crouch patrolled the festival area on a golf cart, he was relaxed and in good humor; a testimony to the lack of significant criminal activity associated with the five-day event.
Early Monday afternoon, a cacophony of sounds still rang through Lawrence Park with live entertainment going full speed on the stage, school children romping inside the inflatable slide, people young and old chatting, visiting, playing, eating and, in general, enjoying the last few hours of the festival.
A couple blocks over, the arts and crafts vendors continued to display and sell their merchandise to visitors and home town customers alike at a brisk pace.
“This was a good year for the festival and for the vendors,” Delaune said. “We have vendors who are paying deposits now for the same spot next year.”
Monday’s festival-goers did not have the long distance to walk from parking to festival grounds experienced from Friday through the weekend when parking logistics became a minor issue because spaces close to the event filled up early.
Delaune said he and festival board members will discuss providing something for people not staying at a hotel or at Lake End Park from where shuttle service had been provided.
“We may look at off-site parking that includes a shuttle service,” Delaune said. “That is what they do at most other festivals of this size.”
Tamporello said another minor issue became apparent this year with the larger crowds — trash on the roadways and in the medians of streets away from the park.
“We noticed a lot of trash strewn along Federal Avenue and Highway 182 this morning,” Tamporello said Monday afternoon. He acknowledged an increase in trash is expected as crowds, especially from out of town, get larger.
Morgan City Mayor Frank Grizzaffi said after a discussion with festival officials, he and Crouch arrived at a plan to utilize city jail trusties to clean up the streets.
“With so many people coming in to the festival the trash began to get out of hand. But with the trusties and city public works employees, we were able to get it cleaned up,” Grizzaffi said.
The trusties and public works employees were back cleaning before dawn today, the mayor said.
“We wanted to get out there early before traffic started and get the city cleaned up,” Grizzaffi said.
In addition to the city garbage cans, an 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. shift of trash disposal from the festival area was provided Saturday and Sunday as well as shorter shifts on the other days by Men at Work of Berwick, said company representative Alicia Vincent.
Men at Work provided 100 cardboard cans with 55 gallon bags in them near the park and under the bridge to Fourth Street. During the festival, 1,550 bags, 85,000 gallons, of trash were disposed of, Vincent said.
After 11 p.m., the St. Mary Sheriff’s office utilized parish inmates for an evening cleanup sweep of the park, sheriff’s spokesperson Traci Landry said. They collected and discarded a “couple dumpster loads” of trash, she said.
The festival contracted with a Hammond company to provide sufficient portable potty service. Pot-O-Gold office manager Melissa Gossett said the 50 units they provided were serviced three to four times a day.
Several vendors interviewed said customers were plentiful Friday through Sunday, with business only slightly lower Saturday than the other two days. One vendor left Sunday after selling all of his merchandise, Delaune said.
Billy Picou, chairman of the Central Catholic High School hamburger fund raiser that is a tradition of the fair, said there were a lot of people in the park on Saturday but burger sales were a little slower than Friday’s pace. Burger sales spiked on Sunday, he said.
“People come from all over to get a Central Catholic hamburger,” he said. The stand sold 7,000 burgers, he said.
On the other end of the block, diagonal of the stage, Café Jo Jo’s executive chef Dale Ratcliff took a quick break from cooking to talk about the Morgan City restaurants’ third year of festival participation.
With the improved weather and increased crowds, this year was the most successful, he said. Sunday was also their biggest day of sales. He said he noticed a lot of out-of-towners buying food this year.
Even the Children’s Village felt the crush of higher than anticipated visitors.
Jeanne McCloy, a weekend volunteer worker, said toy prizes are given to children participating in the village’s many games and those toys usually last until 4 or 5 p.m.
“We ran out of toys within a couple hours on Saturday and Sunday,” McCloy said Monday afternoon.
With volunteers from the Patterson Boy Scout Troop 41 behind her painting faces and helping staff the kiddie “fishing pool,” she praised the children that visited the village through the festival as “polite and well-behaved.” She said volunteers from Central Catholic High School’s Key Club and the Morgan City High Student Council had been a big help at the village.
Delaune released the following winners from the Blessing of the Fleet and Water Parade contest held on Sunday morning:
Shrimp Industry Vessel — first place, Miss Stephanie (Kermit Duck); second place, Vickie (Arthur Rulf); and third place, Cajun Pride (Alfred Daigle).
Petroleum Industry Vessel — first place, Dixie (Joey Carbonell); second place, Miss Juanita (Michael Patterson); and third place, Miss Erin (Michael Patterson).
Pleasure Craft — first place, Take a Break (Curtis Leonard); second place, Tugboat Jerry (Jerry Businelle); and third place, Paw Paw’s Last (Gene Stelly).