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BOBBY ARDOIN
Editor and Contributing Writer

Photograph: Fireworks display that ended the St. Landry Parish BBQ Fest on Sunday. (Photograph by Bobby Ardoin.)

The night time sky exploded with the vibrancy of colors and sound Sunday as three days of food, music and family events at the St. Landry BBQ Fest reached a dramatic end for the hundreds who gathered at the Yambilee grounds.

“This event was bigger than I thought it would be,” said parish president Jessie Bellard, who hosted the parish government-sponsored fair that featured carnival rides, a bar-b-que cook off and the continuous sounds from area bands that had people dancing on the dirt  floor of the parish Ag Arena.

Bellard said prior to the concluding 15-minute fireworks display at the rear of the area that he didn’t have an exact count of the people who filled the Yambilee grounds beginning Friday.

However the vehicles which jammed into the parking areas around the Yambilee buildings indicated the event was well received, Bellard said.

“We’re flying drones over the fair to get a vehicle estimate, so we can make a guess of who’s here,” Bellard said.

Bellard acknowledged that attendance was bolstered by obliging weather that enticed individuals from out of state.

“It rained a little bit on Friday but not enough to hurt the crowd. Saturday was great and then on Sunday we had good attendance despite it being a lot hotter,” Bellard noted.

Bellard said the BBQ Fest with free admittance was supported by American Rescue Act funding.

Based on concession sales Bellard estimated the parish would probably break even on the expenditure. “When we add up concessions, we might even make a little bit of money,” added Bellard.

Bellard said the event was tourist driven, which means it qualified for ARA money received by the parish over the next three years.

“What we were looking to do is have a family friendly event and I’m happy that we did it. We wanted to give the people of the parish something where they could take their kids and their families and enjoy themselves. I think we were able to do that,” Bellard said.

Those who attended were spending money.

Sno-ball stands were handling long lines of customers, food vendors were selling  bar-b-que, turkey legs, caramel apples, popcorn and cotton candy  and by 7:30 p.m. Sunday there was no beer left to sell.

Bellard said the three days of activities were incident free, as festival goers lined up for the ferris wheel and more challenging venues such as the Journey to Mars and the Super Slide.

Don and Mary Frazier were heading to the fireworks spectators area ending their third day of attending the festival.

“We’ve enjoyed the food and just watching the people here have fun. We were thinking about going to Kinder or LeBeau for the weekend, but we decided to come here. I’m glad we did,” said Don Frazier, who said the couple came to Opelousas from the Beaumont, Texas-area.

Joseph Raynard Pickney of Port Barre was accompanied by four-year-old grandson Max, who was digging into a lime green sno-cone.

Max and his grandfather rode the ferris wheel and the pair were heading for the bumper cars next.

“We’ve seen a lot of kids here and what we have seen so far is very nice. It’s a great event for everyone,” Pickney said.

Shaterral Johnson of Grand Coteau brought four-year-old nephew Saevon Williams, who was anxious to climb into the seat and grab the wheel of a Volkswagen replica bumper car.

“This is a great event for the families. I see kids and parents everywhere. This is really a good thing to have for our area,” Johnson said.

Dale and Kendra Guillotte drove from New Iberia to view the fireworks and listen to the music.

“We came here (on Sunday) to hear Jamie Bergeron and Dustin Sonnier. We didn’t know about this until we heard about it on the radio Friday morning, but we’re glad we came over,” said Dale Guilotte.