‘Catfish Capital of the World’ ready to celebrate

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Many cities claim to be the “Catfish Capital of the World,” but only one, Des Allemands, can say it is the “Catfish Capital of the Universe,” made official by a resolution of the Louisiana Legislature in 1980.

Every year since 1975, the annual Catfish Festival has provided food and fun, with special emphasis on fried catfish. This year’s festival will be held from June 19-21. Friday hours are 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. until 11; and Sunday, 10:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. There is no price for admission or parking and pay-one-price deals are available for the rides.

The festival, which began as a fund-raiser for St. Gertrude Catholic Church in Des Allemands, is now one of the most popular in the state and attracts visitors from all parts of the country, according to the Rev. Ray Hymel, the current pastor of St. Gertrude and the president of the festival.

“We cook our own food, and there will be lots of fried catfish – served in platters with white beans and rice, in po-boys and broulettes.”

The festival, which has won awards from the Louisiana Association of Fairs and Festivals, is still the church’s major fundraiser, with proceeds going to support and maintain the parish’s facilities.

In addition to fried catfish, there will be other types of festival food, including other seafood dishes and the traditional hot dogs and hamburgers. Hymel also said there will be cold beer. Each day there will be live music, starting with Ryan Foret and the Foret Tradition on Friday and concluding with the Bucktown AllStars on Sunday.

The rides, according to Hymel, are the traditional mid-way types of rides. Festival- goers can choose to buy a one-day pay-one-price pass or one for all three days.

There will also be crafts booths, with hand made items and a country store where the festival T-shirts, caps and the signature and award-winning lapel pin, will be available. The design for the lapel pin, which is in the boot shape of the state of Louisiana, has basically remained the same since it was first designed, according to Hymel, but every year little changes are made, such as in decorations and color. These pins have won awards from the Louisiana Association of Fairs and Festivals more than once.

Even though this year’s festival will only be the second one Hymel has attended (he’s only been at St. Gertrude for two years), he said the festival is very popular.

This year, “Catfish Queen 40” will be crowned the week following the festival. This is something new, said Tammy Prine, director of the pageant. By having the pageant a week after the festival, the newly crowned queen will have a year to travel the state, representing and promoting the festival. She will reign over next year’s festival before giving up her crown. The work of “Miss Catfish,” is almost like a job, Prine said, because the queen travels around the state to other festivals and competes in other pageants, including the “Queen of Queens” pageant sponsored by the Louisiana Association of Fairs and Festivals.

The queen also gets to spend a week in Washington, D.C., leading up to the annual Krewe of Louisianians ball. The 2014 queen is Kristal Breaux. There is also a Louisiana Catfish Granny Queen, a teen queen and a junior queen. This year, a baby queen pageant and a Ms. Catfish queen have been added, so there will be five catfish queens reigning over the catfish festival in the “Catfish Capital of the Universe.” •

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