A wet, soggy Saturday did not stop the diehard festivalgoers at the 10th annual Blackpot Festival & Cookoff this weekend at Vermilionville in Lafayette.
The downpour may have left the dance floor a little muddy, but Cajun and zydeco music played on, and the savory smells permeated the air from the dozens of cast iron pots filled with gravies, stews and gumbos.
The weekend-long celebration of all things Cajun featured camping on Friday and Saturday with music, dancing, cooking and arts and crafts going on well into the night.
Of the hundreds in attendance Saturday, most gathered under the cooking tents and in the dance hall, two-stepping and jigging the rainy blues away.
Festival Director Glenn Fields said the turnout was amazing, considering the weather.
“(The festival) is kind of like an early Mardi Gras,” he said, “People are running around and having a good time.”
One of them was Damian Gomez, who has cooked at the festival for the past five years.
This year, he stood under his tent stirring a pot of his thick, brown turkey gravy as he added some freshly ground paprika. The secret, he said, is his homemade turkey stock.
“That’s the soul,” Gomez said.
Gomez said what he loves most about the festival is the people.
It draws a certain demographic: people who really want to be there and revel in what Blackpot has to offer.
Despite the weather and the fact that the Ragin’ Cajuns had a homecoming game down the road, Gomez said, the devoted attendees still showed up to pass a good time.
Next to Gomez’s tent were father-and-son cooking team Rhett and Ryan Guillory. Rhett Guillory said he taught his son the basics of how to make a gravy, but since then, his son has made it his own.
The younger Guillory, a self-described cooking hobbyist, stood over his pot of chicken and gravy, made with some turkey and smoked pig’s feet stock he got from his friend, Gomez, contemplating whether he should serve it to the judges with a splash of his homemade hot sauce he ages for four years from Tabasco peppers.
“I’ll taste it with both,” he said.
On the other side of the festival, the main stage had a continuous lineup of bands playing while some of the musicians in waiting huddled in the dry corners of Vermilionville to have impromptu jam sessions.
Kelli Jones-Savoy sang along, as her husband, Joel, played the fiddle with others on guitar and clarinet.
The mini-concert under the dry walkway could have passed as something that had been rehearsed, but, “We’re just jamming,” Jones-Savoy said.
She said what she loves most about the festival is that it never ends. From the moment you pitch a tent Friday evening until Sunday, attendees are in “a bubble of festival for the whole weekend,” she said.
In the late afternoon, Fields stood on the roadway in a rain jacket directing volunteers.
As a group of people ran by in their goofy Halloween costumes, he commented that what he enjoys most about being the director of the festival is “seeing people have a good time.”