It's festival time! 75th International Rice Festival begins Thursday
By: Howell Dennis - Editor
CROWLEY - The tired, satisfied look on the faces of those at the International Rice Festival office said it all Wednesday afternoon. Their hard work will be on display for all to see when Nik L Beer and Chris Himel and Outbound take the Cajun Country Rice (main) and the Louisiana Rice Mill stages beginning at 7 p.m. tonight.
“The weather is supposed to be perfect, with it cooling off and everything...it should be the perfect storm,” said Rice Festival General Chairman Glynn Mayard, who laughed as he quickly corrected himself “No, make that the perfect non-storm.”
Mayard was obviously thankful for the cold front which passed through Tuesday night and is expected to keep temperatures pleasant throughout the weekend.
Those who think the planning for the Rice Festival only takes a few weeks or months, think again. Almost immediately following this year’s event planning will already be underway for the 76th edition.
“We start right away,” said Festival Coordinator Roxie Viator. “When one ends the next year begins.”
“This year I think our prayers have been answered and we look forward to a very successful weekend,” she added.
Vendors and carnival workers began to arrive as early as last week and, as of Wednesday, the excitement could be felt amongst the people strolling downtown.
“This is my favorite festival of the year,” said Estherwood resident Margie Thayer, who estimates she has been to approximately 30 Rice Festivals. “The music, the food and the parades and watching this city fill with people from around the country is just a joy to see.”
Though the bands and the vendors will be kicking things off tonight, the official opening of the festival will be Friday morning at 9 a.m. when Crowley Mayor Greg Jones, Rice Festival President JC Webb and 2010 International Rice Festival Queen Andre Lyons welcome the crowds.
During an interview Tuesday, Lyons almost sounded as though she didn’t want her reign to end.
“It’s been so much fun traveling and meeting so many new friends,” she said. “I wish we could just skip Saturday morning (when Lyons will be crowning this year’s queen) and move straight to the music.”
“Everything is on schedule and we look forward to a safe and enjoyable weekend,” said Rice Festival Co-Chairman Jay Suire. “We are thankful for the hundreds of volunteers who are helping us to make this year’s festival possible. On behalf of Acadia Parish, we welcome those who have traveled from around the state, the country and the world to share in our culture.”
Suire wanted to be sure to mention Sunday’s family day which only four years ago began to be part of the festival.
“It’s one of the best kept secrets of the Rice Festival,” he said. “After the large crowds and music are done it’s a quiet, alcohol-free, family day that lasts from noon until 6 p.m. It’s also a time when our volunteers can finally get some time off to enjoy the rides.”
Some well-deserved time off for the people who work out of the office at 112 East Hutchinson Ave. may happen next week but probably not for long.
The 76th annual International Rice Festival will be here before you know it.