Organizers of area festivals slated for this weekend are saying the show will go on, despite the threat of rain.
But organizers of the Kite Fest Louisiané in Port Allen and the Strawberry Festival in Ponchatoula plan to soldier on despite the more than 50 percent chance of rain forecast for Saturday and Sunday.
“We’re not even speaking about the ‘R’ word,” said Sharon Stam, executive director of the West Baton Rouge Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The parish’s soccer complex, where the festival will be held, drains well, and there’s a covered pavilion, tents and events at the nearby Port Allen High School gym that should help visitors get through rain that will hopefully be intermittent if it comes, Stam said.
Fingers are crossed that rain won’t interfere with the event’s traditional Saturday night fireworks show — when professional kite flyers from across the country who attend the event fly lighted kites.
The Kite Fest successfully pulled off its Friday morning opening just for schoolchildren without rain before the busloads of children pulled out around noontime, Stam said.
In Ponchatoula, where the Strawberry Festival began Friday and runs through Sunday, festival Chairman Donald Lanier said that if storms come through, some shows might get pushed back and musicians may have to shorten their sets, but everyone is preparing to play it by ear.
Rain threatened Friday, and people still came out to celebrate, Lanier said.
“We didn’t know what (weather) to expect today. … We have a huge crowd out here right now,” he said about an hour after gates opened at noon.
The Friday crowd was mostly local; the Strawberry Festival, which usually draws about 300,000 people every year, typically has its biggest crowds on Saturday, Lanier said.
Strawberry Festival organizers have sawdust on hand to dry out Ponchatoula if rain rolls through and will try to get rides back up and running if they need to be shut down because of weather, Lanier said.
The National Weather Service’s Slidell office has given Ponchatoula a 50-50 chance of rain Saturday.
“It’ll be a little bit hit or miss,” meteorologist Alek Krautmann said.
He had good news and bad news for revelers.
“Fortunately, it doesn’t look like an all-day washout,” he said but added that precipitation is slightly more likely in the afternoon, when most of the shows and contests occur.
With the same kind of odds in place for the Kite Fest in Port Allen, Stam said she’s hopeful the expected rains will do what they often do and “go north of us.”
Krautmann said the rain is a result of a cold front that will hang over the area throughout the weekend.
Cold, however, is a relative term. The forecast highs Saturday and Sunday are in the high 70s on Saturday and around 80 degrees on Sunday, with lows in the mid-60s Saturday and about 70 degrees Sunday.
A big concern for the Kite Fest, which draws crowds of about 10,000 each year, is lightning. If it happens, Stam said, organizers will shut down events, especially kite flying, until the danger is past.
And there’s another weather factor the festival always has to think about: wind.
A regular kite requires winds of about 7 to 9 mph to gain altitude, she said, and that usually happens.
Four-line kites, which can do some fancy maneuvers in the sky, require even less of a breeze to go aloft.
On the other hand, one professional kite-flying team’s 300-foot octopus kite requires winds of 15 mph to wow spectators, she said. (Visit west batonrouge.net and click on the video below the photograph of an alligator to catch a glimpse of the octopus.)
One year, though, the festival didn’t have even the slightest of breezes.
“We tied kites to the back of the golf cart and drove,” Stam said, with professional handlers of the kites still able to pull off enough kite-flying maneuvers to put on a show.