The 50th Jambalaya Festival kicked off last weekend, attracting thousands of festival goers to the heart of Ascension Parish over the three-day Memorial Day weekend.

The annual festival showcased over 20 bands from different genres, including the Chee Weez, Marc Broussard and Rockin’ Doopsie, Foret Tradition, Stonewall Broussard, Orphan Annie, Justin Cornett, Na Na Sha and Kenny Fife & Bac Trac, to name a few. There was also a 5K race, car show, games and dozens of rides. 

For the first time in the event’s history, the Jambalaya Festival Association held their Miss Jambalaya Pageant live during the festival on Saturday. Six contestants competed for the prestigious title, but walking away as this year’s queen was 19-year-old Alyssa Latuso, a graduate of East Ascension High School.

The first time pageant winner said she is ready to represent her hometown of Gonzales and the JFA during her reign, in which she will be attending various festivals throughout the state and will be competing in the Queen of Queens pageant next year.

“This feels like a dream come true, it’s still not real to me,” the LSU Dental Hygienist student said. “I have so many emotions still going through me, it feel amazing and it’s such an honor.”

The time-honored tradition of announcing the new jambalaya champion was held on Sunday evening. Kade Lanoux, along with helper Tyler Billingsly, ousted out 100 other cooks to earn the title of 2017 Jambalaya World Champ, earning Lanoux $2,000, a golden paddle and a ring designed by Layne’s. Both also received a jambalaya pot plaque.

This was the duo’s third time being in the finals in the six years they have been cooking together in the festival. Each year they interchange on being the cook and helper, Lanoux said.

Billingsly said earning this title has been a dream of theirs for the past six years. As the Jambalaya Champion, the team will be cooking for various fundraisers and organizations in the area throughout the year.

“They got so many good jambalaya’s out there, you just gotta have the best one I guess, the most chicken flavor and the biggest rice,” Lanoux added.

Also announced during the weekend was the Champs of Champs winner, Joey Cornett. The cook-off is comprised of past winners competing against each other to earn the Champs of Champs title.

Latuso, Lanoux and Billingsly will be traveling to Gonzales’ sister city in Meylan, France, where they will attend their Jambalaya Festival and cook the winning pot of jambalaya and hand out to attendees.