Jambalaya partying coming to Gonzales

Wade McIntyre

Ready for four days of world champion Jambalaya cooking, eating, dancing and general feel-good frivolity?

Starting Thursday you’ll be in the right place if you head to Irma Boulevard in Gonzales for the 43rd Annual Jambalaya Festival.

“We expect the normal crowd we get,” said Mayor Barney Arceneaux. “We have over 100 cooks vying for the championship, plus the midway and bands. I see no reason we won’t have a good turnout.”

The mayor said he saw a some new cooks signing up for the contest and is looking forward to seeing how they fare in the limelight of the big cook-off for the title of World Champion Jambalaya cook.

“I enjoy watching the cooks,” he said. “I’ve probably tasted every one of their jambalayas and I can tell you they’re all good cooks. It will be exciting to see how the new cooks do this year bringing new blood into the competition.”

JFA President Wally Taillon, a former World Champion Cook himself, said he’s hoping to have around 120 cooks by the first day of competition.

Taillon promises a bigger lineup of bands, and a larger tent in front of the main stage for covered dancing.

Early birds who like to jitterbug dance are invited by the JFA’s Rhett Bourgeois to bring their dancing shoes to either the Holiday Inn or the Gonzales Civic Center at 5 a.m. Friday morning for a chance to dance on the morning shows of either WAFB Channel 9 or WBRZ Channel 2.

The idea, Bourgeois said, is two-fold: get on TV, and then kick it up and show folks how much fun people have at the festival.

The festival features The Champ of Champs cooking contest starting Thursday at 2 p.m., with the winner announced around 6 p.m. , followed by the sale of jambalaya cooked by all the competing champs.

The popular mini-pot cooking contest fires up Saturday at the KC Hall. Kids ages 12 and younger will compete in their own category, as will those ages 13 to 17 years, and those 18 and older. The fun event benefits the Dream Day Foundation for St. Jude Children.

There will be another World Record Jambalaya Pot Cooking Saturday at 10 p.m. The twist this year: JFA cooks will be out to break the record they set last year.

The Cajun Classic Chevy Club Classic Car show Saturday begins at 10 a.m., following the 5K and 1-mile fun run that starts on Irma Boulevard at 8 a.m.

Taillon said he has 27 bands line up this year, on the usual three music stages. Admission is free to the festival and all the bands, from Van and Grace Broussard to Foret Tradition to the Chee-Weez and Bag of Donuts, play free of charge.

Be sure to pick up a free copy of the official JFA program published by The Gonzales Weekly Citizen featuring all the bands and performance times.

Mayor Arceneaux said the JFA festival will once again be great entertainment for the whole family.

“I enjoy seeing the families come out and enjoy themselves,” he said.

And, Arceneaux said he will probably gain a little weight over the Memorial Day Weekend.

“Jambalaya, when you smell it, it smells so good if you don’t eat some of it there’s something wrong,” he said.