Did you know…Sugar Cane Festival and Fair?

Nov 26, 2017

Louisianians love a good party. We love a bad party too. It’s no wonder there are more than 400 festivals in Louisiana annually. Since we love to share our parties, we invite everyone to come “pass a good time” with us. Did you know most festivals in Louisiana celebrate either a particular food or music that is part of our unique culture? Let’s consider the Sugar Cane Festival.

First, let me explain the difference between a festival and a fair. A festival is normally a celebration of historically religious occasions or non-secular traditions where people gather to enjoy food, fun, family, and, sometimes, their faith, as they observe cultural and religious traditions during the festival. A fair, on the other hand, can be an opportunity for vendors to gather in one location to entertain residents with rides, games, wares, and food items.

The Sugar Cane Festival, hosted in New Iberia since the 1940’s, is a five-day event scheduled during the third week of September. The festival serves to showcase the strong bond between the people of the sugar producing parishes and the natural resource that has been the foundation of their livelihood. It even has its own royal court with King Sucrose and Queen Sugar. This is the time of year when everyone in sugar producing parishes can be heard greeting one another with “Hi Sugar!”

The festival is packed with activities capturing the attention of the young, the old, locals, and visitors alike sticking to those essential ingredients of food, fun, family, and faith. Starting with the food, let’s consider some of the foods that are not only available to purchase for personal enjoyment but are exhibited in the sugar cookery contest.

If you’re going to attend a festival in Louisiana, then it’s best to show up hungry. Most festivals serve common Louisiana fares such as jambalaya, boudin, crawfish Etouffee, crawfish Monica, meat pies, and a variety of desserts. In the sugar cookery contest, not to be confused with sugar cookie, categories include pralines, pies, cakes, an assortment of cookies, muffins, and candies. Hope those judges have an empty stomach and a strong sweet tooth! For those who are worried about any extra pounds, they may add during the festival, feel free to enter the 5k race.

To kick off the fun, all of which is family friendly, there are contests for the best-decorated home and business. During this contest, community members show off their support for the festival by decorating their homes and businesses with sugar cane stalks, Cajun straw hats, farming implements, and other creative touches.

If viewing livestock is your idea of fun, then be sure to catch the 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) livestock and rabbit shows. This event is one of the larger family events with several generations of a single family having entered their own livestock in this contest over the years. There is also a flower and sugar cane exhibit. Yes, I said sugarcane exhibit. It is the Sugar Cane Festival, after all! Contestants for the sugar cane show enter three stalks of sugar cane from their five-acre or larger operational units. This requirement is to ensure contestants have an agricultural rather than a gardening background.

Festival-goers who are more mechanically inclined will enjoy the car show as well as an exhibit of farm equipment and implements. This exhibit serves to educate festival goers in old and modern equipment used to plant, harvest, and roll the sugar cane. The Cajun term “la roulaison” is often used in this area deep in Cajun Country. It means “the rolling or crushing of sugar cane stalks to extract the juice.” It is this sweet juice that is refined in the sugar mills to make white and brown sugar crystals, thick molasses, and sticky but delicious cane syrup.

One of the main events of the festival is the Sugar Queen pageant. Final contestants selected from each of the sugar producing parishes compete to win the title, Queen Sugar, bestowing her with the honor of representing the region for a year across the state and in large cities, like Washington, D.C. and New York. Her mission is to highlight the achievements of the region specifically related to the sugar industry. Once selected, Queen Sugar joins King Sucrose on the royal stage where she is crowned and wrapped in her royal robe adorned with bright green sugar cane stalks.

The festival is bookended with overtones of Catholicism. It begins blessing of the crop and ends with a royal mass on the final day at St. Peter’s Catholic Church. Mass is followed by a street fair and the royal parade. The royal parade is a sight to see with elaborately decorated floats carrying the royal court, musicians, and members of the festival committee.





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