Origins and Tradition
Serving as the main annual fundraiser for the Port Barre Lions Club, the Port Barre Cracklin Festival was first held in 1985. This original gathering was a quaint one day celebration held at the boat launch near the intersection of 3rd Street, Bayou Road and Boggs Street. Offering a small selection of rides and games, a couple vendor booths and the essential Cracklin Cookoff, this introductory festival boasted a couple hundred attendees. Since that fateful start over 30 years ago the Port Barre Cracklin Festival has evolved into a major cultural and social event for both the city of Port Barre and St. Landry Parish as a whole, attended by thousands of locals and tourists each year.
Thanks to tremendous support from the citizens of Port Barre and surrounding communities the Cracklin Festival grew rapidly. For its second year the festival moved to a larger location on Sazian Street where it would be celebrated for most of the next decade. The City of Port Barre and the Port Barre Fire Department generously allowed the Lion's Club to use their facilities and grounds during this time as the festival soon became a multi-day event. The Cracklin Festival Pageant and Cracklin Festival Parade were soon added to the ever growing list of new activities surrounding the annual event.
Then in 1995, again with the critical support of the City of Port Barre, the Cracklin Festival grew yet again. Following the installation of secure fencing surrounding Veterans Memorial Park the festival acquired a much larger and safer venue and nearly doubled in size and scope. The next truly memorable landmark in the history of the Cracklin Festival would come in 2005 in the aftermath of two devastating storms that would ravage parts of Louisiana in quick succession - Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The Cajun people of Southwest Louisiana are renowned for their strong work ethic, generosity, hospitality and for their ability to "pass a good time." Their love of revelry and community are best personified by the plentiful and various festivals throughout the area. Stretching back to the days of early European settlement the Fall has always been a time of celebration in Louisiana. After the crops had all been harvested and the brutal heat of summer started to wain in these primarily agricultural communities it was time to relax and enjoy the bounty of their hard work. To this very day many South Louisiana festivals can trace their roots back to this tradition of annual harvest celebrations. A tradition that would be threatened in 2005. Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Florida in late August of that year only to be followed less than a month later by Hurricane Rita destroying everything left behind. In addition to the hardship faced by good folks displaced from their home and communities by widespread flooding and physical destruction, Louisiana would see many of its festivals cancelled that year in communities struggling to recover.
The culmination of these events put the City of Port Barre and the Lion's Club in a unique position. While both storms had affected Port Barre, the damage was thankfully not nearly as catastrophic as in other communities. Having had over a month to recover from Katrina and Rita, the city and the Lion's Club were ready and able to host the Cracklin Festival in November of 2005.
This would be the first festival held in Louisiana since the devastating weather, providing a much needed distraction for so many who had been through so much hardship and continued to struggle with recovery efforts throughout the region. Attendance soared that year as folks from all over came to celebrate and put their troubles aside for a little while. The larger crowds and generous nature of the attendees helped the Port Barre Lions Club break records for fundraising and offer that aid to many worthwhile causes.
Currently the Cracklin Festival, usually scheduled on the second weekend in November, is still celebrated on the Veterans Memorial Park grounds. Every year the festival continues to grow and flourish through the hard work and dedication of our amazing partners, vendors, musical performers and tireless volunteers, along with all of our wonderful guests that make it all come together. Hope to see you out there this year!
"Laizze les bon temps rouler!" - Let the good times roll!
The Lions Club of Port Barre Louisiana