The aroma of fried cracklins and the sounds of Cajun, Creole, and Zydeco music filled the air from Veterans Memorial Park in Port Barre for the annual Cracklin Festival.
The Cracklin Cook-off is the highlight of the 3-day event, showcasing local vendors’ culinary expertise as they compete for the bragging rights for the best cracklins in the parish. The traditional cracklin is made from pork and can be compared as the bigger, better version of a pork rind. This year, however, the Festival featured a new category for the first time in its 3 decades of operation with a Chicken Cracklin division.
Amateur and professional cracklin cookers in separate categories went to great lengths to prove they have what it takes to be named the best in the competition. One of the local teams who have been participating in the cook-off for the past 16 years, Speedy-N-Tweety, cooked and sold 12 cases of cracklins throughout the weekend.
This year a total of 8 teams cooked and participated in the Cracklin Cook-Off. The Lions Club collected samples anonymously on Sunday just after lunchtime to be judged and scored in areas such as crispness, seasoning, and meat content. So who took the title for the best tasting cracklins in St. Landry Parish?
In the Amateur Pork Division:
1st place went to the Cracklin Cowboy – Matt Martin
2nd place was awarded to Casian Cusisine
3rd place was Senator Caleb Kleinpeter
Professional Pork Division
1st place was awarded to PigWorks – Triple B Fireworks
2nd place was awarded to Speedy-N- Tweety’s
3rd place was awarded to Buffalo’s Catering
Chicken Cracklin Division
1st place went to PigWorks
2nd place- Rib Shack
3rd place- Buffalo’s Catering
The Opelousas Lions Club was awarded for Best Booth.
PigWorks received Best Dressed and Speedy-N-Tweety won for Sportsmanship
The festival is so much more than just about the food, however. The event serves as a major fundraiser for a great cause, the Lions Club, and has created a significant impact for the local economy since it first started. The Lions Club runs several foundations including the Louisiana Lions Eye Foundation, which assists people who don’t have insurance. The Lion’s Club also offers one of the biggest kids summer camp program for children with disabilities. These programs are made possible and able to thrive thanks to the money brought in from the festival.
From Humble Beginnings to Major Impact on Local Economy
Initially held in 1985, the Cracklin Festival was just a quaint one-day celebration held at the boat launch near the intersection of 3rd Street, Bayou Road and Boggs Street. The event offered a small selection of rides and games for kids, a couple of vendor booths and the essential Cracklin Cookoff.
Over the past 30 years it has evolved into a major cultural and social event for both the city of Port Barre and St. Landry Parish. In an interview, Desirea Vicknair stated the festival sees upwards of 5,000 or more visitors each day, with some traveling as far as from out of the country in previous years. The festival drives a great boost to the local economy as well with out-of-towners completely filling the area RV parks, hotels and driving business to local restaurants throughout the weekend.