Living Ind

Raising Cane

by Mary Tutwiler

New Iberia's Sugar Cane Festival is still sweet fun after more than seven decades.

A honky-tonk atmosphere and hay bales are the signatures of New Iberia's Sugar Cane Festival. One of the granddaddies of Louisiana harvest festivals, it started in 1937 when Earl Long was the first King Sucros. The festival pays homage to generations of cane farmers by dressing up the town with stalks of sugar cane and dressing down the population ' jeans, western shirts, red bandanas and cowboy boots are de rigueur for the rollicking weekend. The events at this epitome of a small town country fair run the gamut from sugar cooking contests and square dancing demonstrations to a boisterous farmer's parade rife with beauty queens and politicians.

Friday morning, Teche country farmers bow their heads at an outdoor mass celebrating the deeply ingrained Catholic tradition of blessing the cane crop. Then the carnival atmosphere cranks up with rides and games. For the Friday night boat parade, watercraft float down Bayou Teche decked with stalks of ripe cane and toss sweet treats to spectators on the banks. Fireworks and a fais do do follow at Bouligny Plaza in the heart of the historic downtown. Traditional music from Marce Lacoutre and the Nouveau String Band will be followed by 5 Finger Discount and cover band Molly Ringwalds.

Saturday, children's dance groups and elementary schools parade in the morning. There will be a 4-H livestock show and sale of prize cattle, pigs and sheep by prospective young farmers at the SugArena in the afternoon. Saturday night calls for dancing in the street with Sean Ardoin and Zydekool, New Iberia's favorite son Andy Smith, and The Chee Weez at Bouligny Plaza, while this year's Sugar Cane Queen will be crowned across town at the Sugar Cane Festival Building.

The big event for parade goers rolls at 2 p.m. Sunday. Sugar queens from nine sugar-producing parishes commence a parade that will include marching bands and hay bale-covered flatbeds, raucous music, and flesh-pressing politicos. Tailgating abounds. The afternoon is invariably a sweaty, happy commotion of the best of old-time festivals in the heart of Cajun country.

For more information on the New Iberia Sugar Cane Festival, call 337-365-1540 or visit