Before the 62nd Bayou Liberty Pirogue Races could even begin, it looked like the annual event might be a wash.
Heavy rains delayed the start of the races on June 1, but the skies eventually cleared and the crowds appeared. The result was a fantastic day spent enjoying a southeast Louisiana tradition — even if some of the assembled paddlers and patrons were drenched in the process.
“Some of the racers started setting up along the banks of the bayou by about 7 in the morning,” said Beth Pichon Dimarco, event chairwoman.
The races, which benefit the rebuilding of the Bayou Liberty Civic Center, are held each year where La. 433 meets the bayou near St. Genevieve Catholic Church.
“We moved the annual blessing of the paddlers up to about noon, knowing that bad weather could be a problem,” Dimarco said. “Then the sky just opened. It poured hard for an hour or more. At that point, there weren’t that many people.”
When the skies cleared, “They all showed up. It got pretty crowded,” she said.
The majority of paddlers hail from the Bayou Liberty, Slidell area. However, a healthy contingent of competitors arrived from communities throughout the north shore, from across Lake Pontchartrain and some from as far away as Mississippi and Florida. Joined by a throng of land-bound well-wishers, they presented a host of races throughout the afternoon.
Among the winners were Paul Dauterive, of Bush, in the Men’s Championship Race; Sabrina Meyn, of Bogalusa, in the Women’s Championship; and Richard Savoie, of des Allemands, in the Common Boat Race.
The event had a wide selection of food and drink, craft booths, carnival games, live music and silent auctions. A raffle featured a fiberglass pirogue, a Phil Galatas print and a bench adorned with a fleur-de-lis.
A special tribute was held in honor of lifelong community resident JuJu Pichon, who recently passed away. Members of his family were presented with official race posters designed by Galatas. The crowd also observed a moment of silence as Galatas paddled down the bayou in memory of the civic leader.
“Despite the rain, we had no problems,” Dimarco said. “It was a good crowd. I’ve talked to a lot of people and everyone has said it was a good event.”
Common (work) boat: First, Richard Savoie, des Allemands; second, Adam Economu, Bogalusa; third, Larry Alexie Sr., Lafitte.
Boys 13-16: First, Hunter Smith, Bayou Liberty; second, Brett Galatas, Bayou Liberty.
Boys 8-12: First, Jacob Stillwell, Bush; second, Michael Doolittle, Bayou Bonfouca; third, Christian Kinsley, Bogalusa.
Girls 8-12: First, Alexis Blackwell, Bogalusa; second, Sarah Kinsley, Bogalusa; third, Allisa Williams, Bogalusa.
Girls 13-16: First, Grace Fornea, Bogalusa; second, Kierston Barber, Bogalusa; third, Abigail Fornea, Bogalusa.
Men’s over 40: First, Larry Alexie Sr., Lafitte; second, Duncan Mclindon, Covington; third, Will McBride, Bayou Liberty.
Blindfold race: First, Louis Delis Jr., Bayou Liberty; second, Beaux Smith, Bayou Liberty; third, Johnny Oliver, Bayou Liberty.
Women’s over 40: First, Kathy Gerken, Bayou Liberty; second, Colleen Smith, Bayou Liberty.
Women’s Championship: First, Sabrina Meyn, Bogalusa; second, Carley Marquez, Bayou Liberty; third, Nicole Graham, Denham Springs.
Kayak race: First, Jeb Berry, Gulfport, Miss.; second, Emile Frey, Bogalusa; third, Wayne Berry, Gulfport, Miss.
Two-man canoe race: First, Paul Dauterive/Daniel Miley, Bush/Bogalusa; second, Tyler Seals/Adam Economu, Bogalusa; third, Rupert Breland/Colby Spears, Bogalusa.
Men’s Championship: First, Paul Dauterive, Bush; second, Richard Savoie, des Allemands; third, Larry Alexie Sr., Lafitte.