ST. FRANCISVILLE — The summer heat is a certainty in early July in Louisiana, but this year, the forecast is also calling for snow on July 2 in St. Francisville.
West Feliciana Parish Sports Park is hosting the first Big Chill in The Ville, a festival to celebrate the nation’s birthday with music, fun and fireworks. One of the top attractions will be several tons of snow that will fall.
Gates open for The Big Chill at 4 p.m. Beginning at 5 p.m., two bands are scheduled to play: Boogie Long & The Blues Revolution as the opener, and the headliner is Phat Hat, which plays popular and contemporary rhythm and blues and dance music. The evening will culminate with a professional fireworks show after dark. Admission to the festival is free.
“Why the snow? In the middle of July? Because it’s always cooler in the ‘Ville,’ ” said Parish President Kevin Couhig, the driving force behind the festival.
“The most important purpose is to bring the community together to enjoy a nice, fun family-oriented social activity and to have a great time,” Couhig said. “We want to invite people who live here and our neighbors who live in surrounding parishes to come out and enjoy our nation’s birthday and to develop a greater sense of community. One of the most important roles is to expand the sense of community that we have.”
The festival grounds will be located south of the pond at the Sports Park. Two tents will be set up to shield people from the sun and lawn seating and a dance floor will be in front of the stage. There will be vendors with different types of food and plenty of refreshments will be available for purchase. One area will have free parking, while another lot closer to the venue will cost $10 and include a free T-shirt.
Besides the snow and music, other highlights of the festival will be a 50-foot ice luge ride as well as water balloon wars, a rock-climbing wall, face painting, a strolling magician and balloon artist, light-up volleyball and arts and crafts for sale.
“It’s going to be fun,” Couhig said. “Who doesn’t love fireworks? Who doesn’t love music? Who doesn’t want to sit in lawn chairs and watch kids play water balloon wars? And slide down a snow luge.”
Couhig also plans for The Big Chill to serve another purpose: as an economic development event to recruit prospects to check out West Feliciana. Invitations are being mailed to targeted real estate developers and businesses, inviting them to see what the parish has to offer. The aim is to counter any perceptions that the parish is not growth-friendly.
“The idea is to leverage that sense of community and fun and make that a message we can get out in an economic development sense,” Couhig said. “We need more housing. That takes developers. We need to increase the population so existing businesses can be more successful.
“We’ll invite people to see what we have going here and to see this is a great place for them to make an investment. They have plenty of choices and everything is competitive. … We value what they’re doing and we will ask them to think about West Feliciana. They can see our community in its finest form, where everybody is having a great time.”
Earlier this month, Couhig said he allocated parish economic development board funds from its 2015-16 budget to help pay for event.
Couhig said The Big Chill’s expenses will be $51,000, and he anticipates attracting “well over 1,000” attendees. The budget includes $18,500 for marketing and $32,450 for the actual event. All of the money, except $13,000 from the Sports Park’s budget to cover fireworks and music, comes from the economic development board’s 2015-16 budget.
Couhig anticipates generating $10,000 through sponsorships and another $12,000 in revenue from beverage sales, vendors and promotional items, meaning the event will end up costing roughly $29,000, minus the $13,000 kicked in from the Sports Park. He said all net proceeds will be returned to the economic development board.