How the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival got started

Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History of the Cajun Crustacean

Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History of the Cajun Crustacean

Breaux Bridge native Sam Irwin’s book, Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History of the Cajun Crustacean, tells you everything you need to know about how the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival got started. The Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival takes place May 6-8. It all started with a scholar’s interest in local history…

The promotion of the crawfish began with a simple letter written by Lafayette Judge A. Wilmot Dalferes to Breaux Bridge resident Anna Belle Dupuis Hoffman in 1958.

Judge Dalferes liked to rummage through dusty old courthouse records and in the spring of 1958 he discovered that Breaux Bridge was due for a birthday, the centennial anniversary of the town’s incorporation. Breaux Bridge historian Grover Rees harrumphed that the town was actually founded much earlier when Firmin Breaux built a suspended footbridge over the Bayou Teche in 1799, but Dalferes wasn’t concerned about the founding. He had a document in hand that detailed the town’s incorporation. He wrote a letter to Anna Belle, a teacher “active in more things (school, civic and social) in Breaux Bridge than there are ways of preparing crayfish.” Anna Belle brought the news to her boss at the St. Martin Parish School Board, Assistant Superintendent Raymond Castille.

1959-ECastille said he brought the information to the Lion’s Club, but it seems like Anna Belle did all the heavy lifting. If anyone could convince the local Lions to spend months planning a celebration that would bring an estimated 30,000 to 70,000 visitors to their sleepy bayou town, that person was Anna Belle. Educated, vivacious, with an infectious, toothy smile, Anna Belle could, by sheer force of character, sell sand

Anabelle Hoffman serenades Woodrow Marshall at a candlelit crawfish dinner.

Anabelle Hoffman serenades Woodrow Marshall at a candlelit crawfish dinner.

to Saharans.

Technically, the town’s incorporation was March 14 but that was smack in the middle of Lent. Catholics in Breaux Bridge penanced not only on Lenten Fridays, but also Wednesdays. They said the Rosary every night and many attended daily Mass. A centennial celebration

in Quadragesima just wouldn’t do. Anna Belle and the Lions settled on the second weekend in April.

Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History of the Cajun Crustacean is available at the better bait shops and bookstores and the online retailers. It may also be purchased through the author’s website at www.SamIrwin.net.

1959-C

The color guard marches by during the 1959 Breaux Bridge Centennial Celebration

1959-A

Centennial organizer Raymond Castille dances with Centennial Queen Dianne Domingues. At left, Bert Angelle (father of politician Scott Angelle) dances with a debutante.

1959-B

Centennial Queen Dianne Domingues is presented.

1959-D

Governor Earl K. Long holds court as Speaker of House Bob Angelle listens. Governor Jimmie Davis, Madge Angelle appear amused as Mayor Louis Kern watches from the left side. The man behind Davis, most likely Long’s bodyguard, is unidentified. The crawfish bisque dinner was held in the state agriculture building on Courthouse Street.

1959-F

A float in the 1959 Breaux Bridge Centennial Celebration parade. Breaux Bridge celebrated its centennial of incorporation in 1959 partly by having residents dress in 19th century garb. The sign on the float, “Charcuterie, ” honors the smoked, salt and cured meat trade that south Louisiana is famous for.

1959-G

Governor Earl K. Long on the stage of the Breaux Bridge High School gymnasium at the gubernatorial debate during the 1959 Breaux Bridge Centennial Celebration. Note that Long is wearing a crawfish pin.

1959-H

Marie “Mim” Blanchard of Mim’s Cafe cooks crawfish in her restaurant that was located across the street from St. Bernard Church.

1959-I

The Breaux Bridge High School Marching Band performs in the 1959 Breaux Bridge Centennial Celebration. Pont Breaux residents dressed in 19th century wardrobes to honor their Acadian and French forebears.