ST. FRANCISVILLE — West Feliciana Parish Sports Park Director Rob Hunter is in a festival spirit.
Besides all the sporting activities at the sports park, Hunter is planning three new family-friendly festivals for the park during the next year that will provide entertainment value for parish residents and will draw people from other areas.
Parish President Kevin Couhig said the idea is to draw people from outside the parish to see what the area has to offer and to hopefully support parish businesses with generous spending.
“In the last budget cycle, we worked with parks leadership and all of their folks to figure out how we could draw more people to visit our outstanding park facilities, as it would be a great way to add to our tourism visitor count,” Couhig said. “The tournaments and other events being hosted by the parish at the park have increased use significantly and brings visitors to our stores, hotels and restaurants nearly every weekend.”
He said since February, there have been between 5,000 and 7,500 distinct visitor vehicles to the park. Many of those visitors are from out of town. It’s part of an overall strategy to develop the park into a destination for more than just sporting activities and to make it a community park for arts, cultural activities and social events.
The first festival is slated for July 2 and will have a “Christmas in July” theme. Although all the details have not yet been finalized, Hunter said the whole purpose is to celebrate the Yuletide theme in the heat of July.
He’s planning on renting a snow machine so children of all ages can play in real snow. There will be luge racing with people sliding on rubber tubes across ice, games and activities, a Christmas tree, decorations, a Santa Claus appearance with photos, local vendors selling early Christmas merchandise and a professional fireworks show to top off the evening. Music will be provided by an opening act, possibly a blues band, and Phat Hat as the featured act.
“We’re also going to have food trucks with food for sale and local vendors, and we’ll have beer for sale to adults,” Hunter said. “We’re doing this on July 2, so families can go to Downtown Baton Rouge if they want to see the big fireworks display on the Fourth.”
The second event will take place over Labor Day weekend and will include a visit to the parish by a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, also known as the “Traveling Wall.” This event will rebrand the LA Vets Fest held annually in St. Francisville and will have a county fair theme.
“The wall will come in, escorted by the Rolling Thunder bikers club on Aug. 28 and will be set up until Sept. 3 for people to come and pay their respects,” Hunter said. “We’re also planning daily ceremonies with different local churches involved. The Wall will be monitored 24 hours a day and will be in a solemn and respectful location. All of the proceeds will benefit the Veterans Foundation.”
He said there also will be a regular county fair with carnival rides and a midway with games and activities, as well as live music each night. The sheriff’s rodeo also is likely. Local vendors with food, beverages and beer available for purchase are planned. Hunter said he’d also like to have a watermelon-chunking contest aimed at targets in the pond and maybe some other activities like a pie-making contest or pie-eating contest, although most of final details are yet to be worked out.
In May 2017, the third event, a Cinco De Mayo-themed festival, will take place at the Sports Park. Although it’s a long way off, Hunter said some of the ideas being tossed around include a sombrero contest, a piñata contest, some sort of simulated bull run and more Mexican-inspired activities.
“We want to have something for all ages and for the entire family to do at all of these events,” Hunter said. “The revenue goals for this are to break even and get people here and enjoy what we have to offer.”