They would help each other across the south to help finish their “boucherie.” They would come together on special occasions and share the meat they hunted. Since then, the people of Sorrento have taken that story and enhanced what was originally a small annual gathering and turned it into a three-day festival.
On the third weekend of October, the Boucherie Festival is held annually in Gonzales, Louisiana. Traditionally it began in Sorrento.
This year the festival was held on October 20 -22 at the Lamar Dixon 4-H Building. The festival has many events that go on throughout the busy weekend. There is a cracklin’ cooking contest, a jambalaya cooking contest, a pageant, and live music.
This festival comes from an old Cajun story that can be found on the Boucherie Festival’s website. Back in the early days of South Louisiana the French natives, or the Cajuns, had no refrigeration. They would wait until the temperature dropped in the fall months to go hog hunting so they would have meat for the upcoming winter months. They would help each other across the south to help finish their “boucherie.” They would come together on special occasions and share the meat they hunted.
Since then, the people of Sorrento have taken that story and enhanced what was originally a small annual gathering and turned it into a three-day festival. This event is held by the Sorrento Lions Club, which is a volunteer group made up of people from the town of Sorrento. Over the years, there have been multiple events added to the Boucherie Festival such as the cooking contest and pageant. The cracklin’ cooking contest was added in 1981, and the jambalaya cooking contest was added in 1995.
On top of the yearly cracklin’ and jambalaya cooking contests, they also host a “Champion of Champions Cooking Contest” for both cracklin’ and jambalaya.
The cooking contests are both done similarly where cooks sign up with helpers to cook in either the morning group or afternoon group on the Saturday of the festival. All the cooks are given a ticket number to represent them as they cook. They set aside samples of their food to send to the judges under their number. Entering their items under a ticket number rather than their name limits the possibility of any bias. On Saturday night, a representative from the Sorrento Lions Club announces the cooks who the judges choose to move on to the finals. The finals are held on Sunday and the cooks get new numbers. The process is done the same way, and they turn in their samples to the judges. That night the Cracklin’ and Jambalaya Champions are named. They get a plaque and bragging rights for the upcoming year. This year’s Cracklin’ Champion was Snook Trabeau and the Jambalaya Champion was Jason Courville. Both are back to back champions.
Neil Bourgeois Sr. has been cooking in the cooking contest since 1984. Bourgeois said, “I cook in it because it has always been family-oriented, and you get to see people you don’t see a lot. It’s exciting and competitive, and they always have good music and food.”
Moreover, there is also a “Miss Boucherie” and “Teen Miss Boucherie” crowned to represent Sorrento and the Boucherie. For years the pageant was only for young women, but in 1986 it was opened for all age groups. Now there is a Miss Boucherie Queen, Mrs. Queen, Teen Miss Queen, and a Junior Miss Queen. This year Miss Taylor Alberes was chosen as the 2017 “Miss Boucherie.”
Alberes said, “I am so honored and blessed to be the new Miss Boucherie. This is something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, and the Boucherie festival has been such a huge part of my life.”
Alberes and her family are long time natives of Sorrento and were always in attendance to the Boucherie. Alberes will go on to represent Sorrento in the Queen of Queens Pageant hosted by the Louisiana Association of Fairs and Festivals. She was sponsored by Le Chateau for the Boucherie Pageant.
“I’m so proud to represent my little Sorrento, and I can’t wait to start my reign,” Alberes said.
The Boucherie also provides charity and philanthropic work with the Lions Club and the Boucherie Festival Association. Together, with donations from the public, they help send children to the “Crippled Children’s Camp” and help the Louisiana Lion Eye Foundation provide eyeglasses to the young and elderly.
"One of my favorite parts outside of the competition aspect is all of the charity work that helps out the Crippled Children’s Camp and Louisiana Lion Eye Foundation," Bourgeois said. "This helps bring the Sorrento community together for a good cause.”
The Boucherie Festival took a small hiatus from 2011 to 2016 due to not having a place to hold the festival. For years it was held at the Ascension Civic center until 2011 when the Ascension Parish School Board took over the lease for the lot and would not let the festival be held there because of insurance liability. The Sorrento Lions Club brought it back in 2016, and it was held at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center.
Sorrento native Lana Trabeau said, “I love this festival because my family has cooked in it for years. The Boucherie has done a lot for Sorrento and has put us on the map because Sorrento is the Boucherie Capitol of the World. It brings in tourism, and we show people how we do things here in Sorrento, Louisiana.”
For more information on the Boucherie Festival and the Lions Club check out their website, https://www.boucheriefestival.com/. Photos from this year's cooking contest can be found here.
Neil Bourgeois is a senior communication major at Southeastern Louisiana University and a native of Sorrento, Louisiana.