Vanessa Blair’s voice mail filled up as her phone “was blowing up” Monday with people trying to register for the Jambalaya Festival Association’s annual Gonzales Christmas Parade.
Blair is the chairwoman of the annual Christmas Parade, set for 2 p.m. Dec. 13. The parade starts at East Ascension High School and rolls along Burnside Avenue to U.S. 61.
Tuesday was the deadline to register, but Blair said late registration will be accepted “with a late fee.”
The JFA, known for hosting Gonzales’ annual Jambalaya Festival in the heart of the city, took over the parade a few years ago after the Ascension Chamber of Commerce gave up sponsorship.
“We went to a meeting with other nonprofits, and in the end, we decided we would put on the parade,” JFA President Wally Taillon said.
Taillon, 70, said his group is known for “putting on a great family festival, and we just couldn’t see the parade ending … so we decided to take it over.”
“I’ve forgotten how long it’s been since we took over,” Taillon said. “We work on the festival and the parade all year long and they kind of blend together.”
The parade, Taillon said, is expected to have around 100 entries, including marching bands, dance units, floats, fire trucks and dignitaries.
Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux is riding as grand marshal.
“It’s all for the families,” Taillon said.
Many families stake out their spots the night before and spend the day “cooking and getting together.”
“It’s like tailgating at a LSU home game,” he said.
Money made from the parade and festival is used to cook thousands of jambalaya dinners that are sold by nonprofit groups to support dozens of good causes, Taillon said.
The JFA also provides the rice concoction to government-supported events, like a recent training hosted by the parish’s emergency preparedness office and other law agencies.
Since August, the group has cooked at least two large pots of jambalaya a week for local charities, he said.
In addition, the group provides money to the Louisiana National Guard and area schools.
The JFA has about 45 members with a core of “15 workers I can count on at every event,” Taillon said.
The group plans to sell 500 bowls of jambalaya on parade day in front of EAHS.
Taillon and his crew also will prepare around 180 hamburgers for those who don’t want jambalaya.
While Blair will spend the next week finalizing the parade lineup, Taillon will worry about the weather.
“All we want is sunshine and blue skies,” he said.
For late registration, visit jambalayafestival.org/entryforms/2015_Christmas_Parade_Application.pdf or email email@example.com.