JARREAU — Cries of “choot ’em, choot ’em,” and “dares a tree-shaker!” echoed across False River on Monday, but it wasn’t “Swamp People” star Troy Landry; it was some of his fans imitating his Pierre Part-accented gator hunting commands.
With this year’s 29th annual False River Boat Parade theme named for the popular History Channel program “Swamp People,” dozens of boats — from small john-boats to large party barges — were bedecked in duck-blind camouflage and Spanish moss.
The 22-mile oxbow lake was dotted with hundreds of boats flying the Stars and Stripes and filled with riders enjoying the hot, Fourth of July holiday.
Chris Olinde’s 24-foot pontoon party barge featured riders dressed in camouflage and cardboard posters declaring such “Swamp People” sayings as “Dasa big gator!”
“We’re here for fun and to represent our hometown heroes,” said Olinde, who was decked out in cut-off bib overalls and a Stars and Stripes bandanna, imitating Ponchatoula gator hunter Bruce Mitchell, another “Swamp People” star.
Dean Hotard’s LSU theme barge — even its seat cushions are purple and gold — was filled with a dozen riders wearing LSU colored swim suits, shorts and shirts.
Instead of “Swamp People,” his boat’s theme was “Stomp People,” featuring a large hand-made poster of an LSU Tiger with a leg that actually moved up and down, stomping on a Florida gator.
“We can’t, obviously, do camouflage,” Hotard said after they unloaded their barge at the LA Express ramp. “We had to be different. This is the second year we’ve done this. It’s a lot of fun.”
Their creativity netted them the “Shoulda Gotta Trophy.”
Founded 29 years ago by Lionel Kleinpeter as a way to celebrate the national holiday, the event started out small, but now features a flotilla in a parade that winds for several miles along what was once a bend in the Mississippi River.
The river changed course between 1713 and 1722, according to state historians.
“Way back when, it was pretty boring out here, so we got six boats together and had a parade,” said Kleinpeter, who gave out his own treasured “Founder’s Trophy.”
Greg Cates took home the coveted award.
“I think this is a better turnout than last year,” Kleinpeter added, as he gazed across the boat-filled lake from the judging stand on the second-story pier at “Admiral” Marc Barker’s place.
Marc Barker’s son, Branden Barker, who helped organize the event, said each year it seems to get bigger.
More than 100 boats could be counted from the judging stand.
“It brings everybody in the community together,” Branden Barker said. “We throw water balloons and the kids have a lot of fun.”
The Rainbow Inn barge, captained by Greg Wood, featured swamp-theme decorations, alligator hunters dressed as the TV show characters, and even included its own television crew holding cameras made of cardboard and aluminum foil.
Judge Marc Barker gave them his “Admiral’s Trophy.”
R.C. Knight’s party barge, which featured a clothesline filled with obviously dirty underwear and a stuffed feral hog’s head wearing a sign declaring to Hammond-area “Swamp People” hunter Terral Evans, “Here’s your hog!” netted the “Best Party Barge” trophy.
Pink swamp fog drifted from it as boys and girls, dressed as trees, wore signs declaring, “Tree Shaker,” for the term of a big gator once it’s hooked to a tree, shaking it mercilessly.
Mia Crader’s “River Bandit” was given the “Best Small Craft” award.
Mark and Brenda Hurst won the best pier trophy.
After the awards were passed out, the party really got started, and boats and barges cruised past each other and the nearby piers blasting each other with thousands of water-balloons and water guns.
Dozens of folks wearing life jackets or sitting in tubes drifted among the many boats, sipping on cold drinks of various flavors.
Kurt and Jillian Snyder, of Greensboro, N.C., were visiting her parents for the weekend, and although she had grown up here watching the boat parade, Kurt Snyder had never heard of it or had never even seen the “Swamp People” program.
“Have I ever seen anything like this? No,” Kurt Snyder said. “Am I coming back for it next year? Yes!”
“I have to explain to him a lot of what people are saying because he can’t understand them,” Jillian said with a smile as he nodded in assent. “But he loves the food and loves to swim in the river.”
To keep the peace, a quartet of patrol boats from the Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff’s Office cruised the lake, keeping an eye on things and assisting where needed.
Water skiers and personal watercraft zipped around as thousands of unbroken water balloons bobbed in the choppy lake.