The rougarou returns to Downtown Houma
This Saturday and Sunday in Downtown Houma, People’s Drugs Store presents the annual Rougarou Fest — two days full of celebrating Southeast Louisiana folklore with entertaining music, delicious foods, rich history, creative costumes, fun games and much more.
“I think it’s more than just a festival,” said Jonathan Foret, executive director for the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center, the non-profit organization that benefits from the festival’s proceeds. “It’s a celebration of who we are as a people with other folks coming to experience that alongside us. I think that’s the real special part.”
Festival activities will officially kick off at 6 p.m. on Thursday with the second annual Rougarou Witch Review at Cannata’s, 6307 West Park Ave. Eventgoers get to vote for their favorite witch and watch them parade around the store while enjoying samples of wine, specialty cheeses and adult potions.
The festival will open downtown at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Attendees will be able to choose from an impressive array of Cajun food over the two-day event, including gumbo, jambalaya, fried catfish, fried oyster po-boys and more. The food court will also have hamburgers, hotdogs, nachos, fries and a variety of sweets and introduce alligator tacos, roasted corn, traditional chili and nutria chili to this year’s menu.
From the people who catch and donate the seafood to the people cooking the dishes at the festival, all are volunteers, Foret said.
“We like the way that it feels to have people from our community cooking food that our families have always cooked for generations and being able to share that with people,” he continued. “I just feel that provides for a much more authentic experience.”
Alcoholic beverages from beer and spirits sponsors, Spigots and Captain Morgan, respectively, will be available for sale at the festival, too.
Festivalgoers will also be able to enjoy a noteworthy lineup of musical talent. The Soul Survivors, Chaos of the Cosmos, Nonc Nu and the Wild Matous, Sheauxdown and Sweet Crude, among others, will rock the BHP Gris Gris Music Stage. The full music lineup can be found here.
On the courthouse steps, a free costume contest will be held on Saturday at 4 p.m. Registration will be open from 1 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. Contestants are only allowed to enter one category, and those categories include Pets, Most Creative, Funniest, Scariest, Movie Characters, Kids’ Costumes ages 5 and Under, Kids’ Costumes ages 6 to 12 and Best Overall. Each category is limited to 100 contestants on a first-come-first-served basis.
The Krewe Ga Rou Halloween Parade will roll at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The parade will start in the Town Hall parking lot located on the corner of Barrow Street and Tunnel Boulevard. Then, it will go down Barrow Street, turn left onto Main Street and then travel down to Grinage Street, where it will conclude.
Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser proclaimed October 2019 the fifth annual Louisiana Folklife Month. “Folklife Month activities showcase tradition bearers in a series of public programs throughout Louisiana that highlight overlooked cultural communities and increase appreciation of the vital role folklorists play in sustaining the state’s distinct culture,” reads a press release by South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center. For Louisiana Folklife Month, the festival will honor Janie Luster, a master palmetto basket weaver and cultural preservationist of the United Houma Nation, at 3 p.m. on Sunday.
“We’re happy to be able to celebrate her and what she’s been able to accomplish,” Foret said.
The family-friendly festival will also include ZydeFLOW yoga, the 13 Pennies Scavenger Hunt, Gourmand Games, the pardon of Beignet the Nutria by Parish President Gordon Dove, the Crawfish Toss and other exciting activities.
The full schedule can be viewed here. Parking, road closures, shuttle transportation and other information for the event can be found on the festival’s official website as well.
“I think that the Rougarou Fest offers something that a lot of other festivals may not. It’s a little bit quirky, which I like about it,” Foret said. “You’re not going to find anything like it anywhere else.”
What started as a one-evening, smaller festival eight years ago is now a nationally-recognized weekend event, bringing in around 15,000 attendees every year and having over 500 volunteers.
“It sounds odd to say, but there’s a lot of love that goes into producing this festival from a lot of people, even though the rougarou seems to be a scary kind of thing,” Foret said. “It’s about love of your community, love of other people and really enjoying the folks that you are working with.”
Rougarou Fest is the main fundraiser for the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center. The center aims to revolutionize “how we think, teach and learn about Louisiana’s disappearing coast.” The organization produces coastal educational programs for K-12 students as well as general educational programs for the public. The organization is going to break ground on its new center in 2020 through funds raised by the festival. Donations for the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center can be made on its official website, slwdc.org.
The center looks to keep its message strongly displayed on festival grounds by having its Rougarou Recycling Center — where participants can recycle their bottles or cans for tickets to redeem prizes — and teaming with other wetlands-based nonprofits that will have information booths set up around the courthouse square.
“The Rougarou Fest is a good time. It celebrates who we are,” Foret said. “But we also always want to have that underlying mission and education — discussing coastal land loss and things that we can do to be more successful while moving into a time when our environment is changing.”