The inaugural Bayou King Cake Festival was held in Downtown Thibodaux at the beginning of February, serving as a festive beginning to the Mardi Gras season. The event, which was hosted by the Lafourche Education Foundation,served as a way for locals to sample and rank a diverse array of locally baked King Cakes, enjoy the Krewe of King Cake Children’s Parade, and listen to live music from Nonc Nu & the Wild Matous.
In total, 28 bakeries competed in the King Cake contest portion of the festival, where visitors voted Slidell’s Sugar Love Bakery the best-in-show. For the past eight years, Sugar Love Bakery has had a ship along Englewood Drive in Slidell, but before that owner and baker Sierra Zerangue ran the business out of her mother’s kitchen for the initial six years.
Sugar Love Bakery was a popular shop at the festival, as they were offering visitors small portions of their “King Cake on a Stick,” which according to Zerangue is the company’s invention along with “King Cake Charcuterie.” This nontraditional charcuterie offering came in the form of a king cake with cups of all the available fillings for dunking.
After Sugar Love Bakery received 183 votes, they were awarded first prize; to which Zerangue said, “it’s amazing, it means a lot to a bakery or any small business.” Second place went to Cut Off’s Cajun Pecan House with 182 votes, and Spahr’s Restaurant finished in third place.
Deanna Lafont is the Executive Director of the Lafourche Education Foundation, and she estimated that since they sold over 2,000 tickets to festival goers in advance, ticket sales along with preorders and scholarships had generated about $50,000 in funds for the Foundation, which will be going towards teacher grants, some festival overhead, and future events.
She went on to comment, “when we were setting the event up, we sold about 700 tickets almost two days before, so we were hoping to get 1,000 people. I think it was just the right time, the right place, the right event, and the right weather. I’m still in shock about how successful the event was.”
The festival had a larger turnout than initially expected; this was due to the fact that festival organizers occupied a section of downtown Thibodaux that’s usually used by Big Boy’s Main Street Cook-Off. Since that festival usually attracts about 1,000 people, Lafont admitted that they’ll need to try and “emulate the Fraternal Order of Police Mudbug Boil-Off because it is a larger event.” This will mean that next year’s event will occupy a larger section of downtown Thibodaux, centered along LA. 1 and Bayou Lafourche, which initially seemed unnecessary for an inaugural event.
Reportedly hundreds of festival goers had stood in line at the two entrances, filling up over two blocks waiting for their king cake samples. Due to the higher-than-expected turnout, many booths and shops were out of king cakes early on. For instance, the Culinary Department of the Lafourche Career Magnet Center saw Kalena Dehart and her coworkers down to seven king cakes from the dozen they brought to the festival within the first hour.
The event was kicked off officially at 1:30 pm with a parade of 15 children-toting wagons and five marching bands marching from the old Capital One building on West 2nd Street to St. Phillip Street and back. Next year, Lafont hopes to organize more events for the children festival goers outside of the parade, saying: “we had the children’s parade, but we’re really talking about having a kids’ area. I would love to see a kids’ king cake baking contest.”
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