Wednesday March 31, 2010
This is Louisiana's Largest Single Day Festival! Two members of the New Orleans Saints who playedpivotal roles in their team’s post-season success are scheduled to makean appearance at the 24th annual Franklin Parish Catfish Festival onApril 10th.
Defensive back Tracy Porter and placekicker Garrett Hartley will make ajoint appearance at the festival held in historic downtown Winnsboro.
“Needless to say, we’re very excited to have these two guys with usthis year,” said Festival Director Paul Price Jr. “They played keyroles in the Saints’ success this year and having them in Winnsboro iscertainly big news for the festival.”
Plans for the two have yet to be finalized but include appearances onboth music stages, as well as time for photographs and autographs withfestival-goers. A schedule of events for the two Saints players will beposted on both the festival website and Facebook fan page as soon as itbecomes available.
The history of the festival began in early 1986 whena small group of individuals discussed the feasibility of establishinga local event to promote Franklin Parish. The parish at this time wasexperiencing the emergence of a new industry in the field ofaquaculture, specifically, farm raised catfish centered in the Wisnerarea. Thousands of acres of ponds were constructed, one processingplant existed, and a second processing plant and a feed mill were inthe planning stages. This new and growing industry presented itself asan excellent theme around which to build a festival. The festival wouldpublicize the industry, but more than that it could be a greatinstrument to promote Winnsboro and Franklin Parish. The potential ofsuch an event had been realized.
Thecatfish festival began in 1986 under the leadership of Rudy McIntyre.Representatives from all major organizations of the parish were broughttogether as a planning committee. Areas of responsibility wereidentified and chairpersons appointed. There were no funds availablefor the first festival to be staged in 1987, but plans were being made.
The first festival included achildren's area, a sound stage, sale of catfish plates, food and craftbooths, cooking and eating contests, a 5K Run, a photo contest, a civilwar reenactment, and other attractions to provide a full day ofentertainment and family oriented fun.
DavidCarraway designed a festival logo and as payment was allowed to produce300 festival posters and was entitled to revenue from their sales. Thelogo was placed on 1500 t-shirts for sale at the first festival.
Sourcesof revenue for the festival were limited to: catfish plates, cokes,t-shirts, and booth rentals. The cost of the first festival came to$10,000. Festival revenue came to $16,000 and the tourist commissioncontributed $5,000 which gave the festival committee $11,000 to use forthe 1988 festival.
Predictedattendance for the first festival was 6,000. The total daily attendancewas estimated to have been between 8,000 and 10,000. Based on thesefigures alone the first event was an overwhelming success and the fundswere available for growth.
Festival organizers were now ready for expansion and had funds in hand to work with. There were high expectations for1988. The first year only the front of Winnsboro Elementary was used.The entire campus was used in 1988. A second sound stage was addedalong with an area dedicated to children. Miss. Louisiana was invitedto perform. Booth rental increased from 75 to 117 spaces. Festival costjumped to $18,000 a portion of which went to advertising. The 1988festival proved a success with estimated daily attendance of 15,000 anda profit of $10,000 which added to the $11,000 from the first festivalmade $21,000 available for 1989.
TheFranklin Parish Catfish Festival matured in 1989. The budget grew to$28,000, 190 booth spaces were rented, a third sound stage was added,and the festival grounds doubled in size with the blockading of Highway15. A variety of music was presented, from country blue grass to brassquintets. New attractions included the Wallenda's High Wire Act, asoftball tournament, Ronald McDonald, and a celebrity tricycle race.Estimated attendance hit 20-25,000. The problem encountered which hadto be dealt with before 1990 was parking. The festival is no longer alocal event and incoming guests must be accommodated. Growth and theproblems it creates must be dealt with. The festival reached a sizewhere effects on the economy are recognized, something not expected tohappen so soon.
The 1990 festivalsaw a 30% increase in grounds by incorporating a large portion ofdowntown Winnsboro. The cost of the festival reached $60,000 and grossproceeds were $80,000. This was accomplished by sale of 5000 t-shirts,3000 lbs. Of catfish, renting 250 booth spaces, and benefits fromcorporate sponsors. The estimated crowd was 40,000. A free park andshuttle relieved parking problems. The dream was coming to fruition.1991through 1998 continued along the same lines. It was no longer a freeevent. Admission rose to $2.00 per person made possible by fencing inthe festival. This also led to a reduction in crime, accidents , andother security problems encountered over the years. Major attractionsof these years included Lumberjack Competitions and the MOVING WALLVIETNAM MEMORIAL. The Moving Wall led to the largest attendance of alltime in 1992. The festival has survived for twelve years overcomingadministrative turnovers and logistical problems and never having todeal with a rainout. Increased corporate support has made festivalfinances manageable.