Terrebonne Christmas to look different in ’16

Organizers of Houma’s downtown Christmas celebration say a new look, feel and event plan is in the works this year, and that private contributions are making much of it possible.

A downtown festival at and around the Terrebonne Parish courthouse will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3. The annual parade will follow from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Through last year, the parade was held on a Friday. But organizers found that Saturday would work better for many people, in particular since the festival has been added. And it’s not too early to catch Christmas spirit, said Shelly Ronquillo, noting that from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday volunteers are needed to report to the VFW hall on Barrow Street, to help repair and refurbish Christmas decorations and lights.

Ronquillo is a downtown development board member who chairs the Christmas Parade event.

“We are updating the courthouse square with a new Christmas tree and new lighting for the oak trees, and there is new lighting for the Bayouwalk, the traffic bridges and pedestrian bridges,” Ronquillo said.

This year there will likely be an added emphasis on decorations going up not just downtown, but on Grand Caillou Road’s busy commercial area too.

Ronquillo and others were concerned that the overall effect might not have shaped up to be as merry as preferred, due to a severe cutback in the contribution the Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government will make due to budget-tightening in Government Tower.

But Santa made an early visit, in the form of tugboat magnate Arlen “Benny” Cenac Jr. His company, Cenac Marine Services, made a sizeable contribution to the effort.

Ronquillo would not disclose the precise dollar amount. But Cenac’s new status as a Platinum donor guarantees that it was in excess of $30,000, the minimum for the Platinum designation.

There are four levels of sponsorship. Benny Cenac is the only Platinum donor for now, but securing of a second Platinum donor is in the works.

Other levels are gold and bronze.

“Mr. Cenac once again proves what a committed community leader he and Cenac Marine Services are by providing generous funds to purchase and upgrade our Christmas Light Display for all of Terrebonne Parish and surrounding communities to enjoy during the holiday season,” Ronquillo said.

At a check presentation ceremony held this morning at the Cenac Marine Services office, Mr. Cenac professed his commitment to the goals of the HDDC in providing a kid-friendly, family-friendly event, stating “I am very happy to support this event and look forward to doing so year after year.”

Ronquillo, along with fellow board members Bobby Arceneaux, James Lecompte and Tommy Guarisco issued a joint public statement on the donation.

“It is all about the kids, all about family and all about the season. Mr. Cenac understands this and shares in our passion,” the statement reads.

The parade by itself had a $70,000 contribution from the parish government, which this year was reduced to $47,000.

Contributions, including the one from Cenac, will not just shore up the parade costs, but allow the needed light replacements and the desired lighting upgrades.

The festival will include Christmas music, an appearance for meet and greet of Santa at the square, a sweater run, stilt-walkers and balloon clowns.

The parade will have 22 floats.

The live music will be provided by various choirs, including St.Matthews Episcopal, the TARC Choir, Houma’s First United Methodist Church and the Nicholls Chamber Singers from the local university.

Carolers from Vandebilt Catholic High will be walking the streets and the square.

At Le Petit Theatre de Terrebonne storytellers will spin Christmas yarns.

A giving tree will be set up on Belanger Street, where people will be able to drive up and drop their donations off. Canned goods, boxed foods and gift cards are among the items that will be accepted. There will also be drop-offs at Rouses and at Cannata’s grocery stores.

“This goes to the whole reason for the festival,” Ronquillo said. “Which is about giving back and giving to the community.”

For information or to make a donation call 873-5408. •

Parade donation