Under a blue sky and 78-degree temperatures, dozens of kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and even a dragon boat slipped slowly down Bayou Vermilion Sunday during the fourth annual Festival and Boat Parade.
Hundreds gathered for the parade and festival, which aims to bring attention to efforts to keep Bayou Vermilion clean and a source of recreation, said Erin Segura, marketing coordinator for Vermilionville, who said the events were a huge success.
The festival kicked off at 10 a.m. with cooking demonstrations, art exhibits and children’s activities. By the early afternoon, many of the 500 preregistered participants were lining their kayaks, canoes and paddle boards along the banks of Bayou Vermilion while other motorized boats waited idly for the boat parade to begin at 2 p.m.
This year’s parade participants departed on the nearly two-hour journey to Camelia Bridge with the wind at their backs, making for a nice, peaceful trip.
Collin Galyean brought his family of four out to enjoy the weather and participate in the parade.
He said he wanted to come enjoy the community on the water on what was a lovely Sunday afternoon while contributing to the good cause of helping maintain the bayou.
In addition to the families and solo riders, the Cajun Invasion dragon boat team was out on the water, something Segura said she was very excited about.
The team is a group of breast cancer survivors and advocates who take their dragon boat to races all over the U.S. to compete. Fortunately, the team was off this weekend and made it to the parade to show off their dragon boat, Segura said.
The dragon boat resembles what one might picture a Viking longboat to resemble, with rowers on either side. A crew member standing in the rear uses a giant oar to steer the boat, and another with a drum in the front sits while pounding away to keep a steady paddling tempo.
The festival also featured a Reduce, Reuse, Repaddle boat-building competition in which contestants constructed boats using only recycled materials.
The competition, held in the Vermilionville retention pond, gave prizes for the fastest boat and the boat with the best design.
Adam Whitman and his grandfather, Tom Griffin, won best design for their boat dubbed, “The Ice Cream Float.”
Their boat had a hull made of old wooden panels and drawers, old soda cans and ice cream boxes. The ice cream boxes surrounded the entire vessel, hence the name.
Their boat finished second in the race, but they didn’t feel comfortable taking it all the way to Camelia Bridge.
“It isn’t all that seaworthy,” Griffin said, which was to be expected considering its materials.
For those not participating in the parade, there was plenty of dancing to be done to the Cajun and zydeco music, and food and drinks to fill the afternoon.
Bayou Teche Brewing out of Arnaudville created a special Floatilla Ale for the festival and there were plenty of debris po-boys and boudin to go around.
The dance hall was full, and the music upbeat as the spectators lined the banks to watch the parade’s departure.