BREAUX BRIDGE — What began as a celebration of no small feat — a National Paddle Trail designation by the National Park Service — continues for the sixth year this weekend in Parc des Ponts de Pont Breaux.
Shake Your Trail Feather will have music, food and family fun. The event runs from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, at the park located on the Bayou Teche.
Music begins with a set by the St. Bernard School children, 11:30 a.m. to noon; followed by Sabra and the Get Rights, noon to 1:30 p.m.; and Bonsoir, Catin, 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Cedryl Ballou and the Zydeco Trendsetters, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., will finish out the music sets on the circa 1860 bridge moored on the bayou bank.
The free event, hosted by TECHE Project, is as distinctive as its name. There’s the option to “Paddle to the Party” with a Cajun paddle at 10 a.m. Kayaks and canoes will take a two-hour paddle from Poche Bridge to the park with a floating band escort.
Even earlier, trail.org is partnering to host the “Trail Feathers” bike event, 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., which has two bike routes (25 and 38 miles) with the option to pedal and paddle.
In addition, the Heritage Stage theme, “Working and Playing on the Bayou,” includes a discussion on how the Teche-Vermilion Freshwater District manages water level in the Teche to aid the boating industry. Also, a panel discussion is scheduled on the bayou’s recreational paddling opportunities.
“The TECHE Project itself raises awareness of the ecological values of the Bayou Teche Watershed,” said Patti Holland, TECHE Project council member. “The festival is a celebration of the paddle trail, but with that, we have a lot of partner groups and affiliates that have an environmental take."
Accompanying the food and drink booths and music, there's an opportunity to learn about water quality issues and testing of the Teche.
“There’s definitely some environmental stuff associated with it,” she said.
The TECHE Project has does more than just clean up the bayou over the years.
In addition to the earned trail designation, through a partnership with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Center for Louisiana Studies and its grant, the organization netted four floating docks (Port Barre, Loreauville, Charenton and St. Martinville) in addition to the project’s own grant-funded full-service trailhead in Breaux Bridge.
TECHE Project hopes to get docks, and more, in towns along the twisting and turning 130-plus-mile-long Teche.
“Our goal is to put access points and informational kiosks in all 15 of the trail towns on Bayou Teche,” Holland said.
Holland said TECHE Project is having a positive impact that you can see.
“I think we’re rolling,” she said. “We began as a small grassroots group of folks that were concerned about the garbage in Bayou Teche. We just started doing bayou cleanups and we did that for a couple of years.
“People are getting the message. We just did a bayou cleanup in Port Barre, and it’s getting more difficult to find garbage in the bayou. That is definitely a good sign that the awareness of keeping Bayou Teche clean is spreading.”
Because of such success, Holland said the organization and patrons need to "bring more focus to the bayou and everything the bayou can be."
Along with enriching the bayou through cleanups and water-quality improvements, TECHE wants to build a trail-based economy "that will change the focus that people have, locally," she said.
"That would bring tourists in to this area so that we can really build something on Bayou Teche and people will turn their focus back to the bayou.”
The final step is to embrace Bayou Teche.
"Once we do all of this, people can see, culturally and historically and ecologically, how important Bayou Teche is," Holland said.
For more information on the festival, bike ride, and paddle excursions, call (337) 277-4645; to rent a boat for the Paddle to the Party, call (337) 366-0337.
Registration online for the pedal and paddles is available on eventbrite.com, search “Shake Your Trail Feather.”
Shake Your Trail Feather Festival
Featuring music from Sabra & the Get Rights; Bonsoir, Catin; and Cedryl Ballou & the Zydeco Trendsetters
WHEN: 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Parc des Ponts de Pont Breaux, Breaux Bridge