Chamber turns over operation of Christmas parade to JFA

Wade McIntyre

The Ascension Parish Chamber of Commerce handed the reins for putting on the Gonzales Christmas Parade over to the Jambalaya Festival Association Tuesday.

The Chamber passed the parade torch to the JFA during a meeting called by Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux.

The mayor said he had been notified a few weeks earlier that the Chamber was looking to get out running the parade.

“I called a meeting of all the different civic organizations and the JFA said they would like to do it,” Arceneaux said Wednesday

At that meeting, Chamber President & CEO Sherry Despino and JFA President Wally Taillon “kind of passed the gavel,” the mayor said.

Despino and Taillon will soon have their respective chairpersons meet to exchange information about the organization of the hugely popular seasonal event.

Rhett Bourgeois will be chairman of the parade for JFA, Taillon said.

The City of Gonzales will continue doing all the things it has done to help the parade be successful in the decades that the Chamber has operated the event, Arceneaux said.

“We’ll provide the law enforcement and the hosting of the grand marshall’s party,” the mayor said. “One of the most beneficial things we did last year was getting with Chief (Sherman) Jackson to beef up the patrols on the outer perimeter of the parade and putting more motorcycles on the parade route.”

The city brought in a horse patrol and foot patrol officers from four different outside agencies to assist with security issues last year.

The key parade issues for the city are No. 1, safety of people around the floats; and No. 2, maintaining the spirit of joy that the parade brings to young kids in the holiday season, according to the mayor.

The Chamber is giving up the parade because it doesn’t fit in with the Chamber’s mission to facilitate and foster economic growth for its members, Despino said.

“We wanted to make sure it was in good hands and keep the tradition there, but we also feel we needed to move into another direction,” she said.