Louisiana Cotton Festival
October 8 thru 13 , 2013
Ville Platte, LA
History of the
Louisiana Cotton Festival
Ville Platte is the home of the fall festival known as the Louisiana Cotton Festival, held each year in October. The World War II veterans are credited for starting the festival as part of their July 4th celebration. In the early 1950’s many festivals throughout the state were getting their names from local products. Some local civic leaders were interested in starting a festival to promote Louisiana Cotton and for the benefit of Ville Platte and Evangeline Parish. The Louisiana Cotton Festival Association was incorporated on August 20, 1953 for a period of ninety-nine years. Cotton was chosen as the festival product because Evangeline Parish was the first parish in the South where all cotton farmers had planted and raised one-variety cotton, namely Delta and Pine Land Cotton, cotton of uniform staple.
The purpose of the Association is, as stated in the charter:
To assist and encourage the growth of one variety cotton;
To build goodwill between Ville Platte and other sections of the state;
To hold, conduct, and supervise an annual celebration to be known as the “Louisiana Cotton Festival”, for the purpose of furthering the material prosperity and progress of the State, of Southwest Louisiana, the Parish of Evangeline, and the City of Ville Platte;
To provide entertainment and education exhibits, and to further in every possible way, advancement in all agricultural pursuits.
“Le Tournoi” (the tournament) is an ancient game or sport, first followed by the knights of ancient France, which was brought to this area by the first settlers who were of French descent. The horseman joust at breakneck speed, endeavoring with their long lances to strike and retain rings set upon post along a large circular track. The game was played in Ville Platte until the turn of that century and thereafter died out until it was revived in the 1950’s to be played in conjunction with the 4th of July celebrations. When the Cotton Festival came into existence, the Tournoi was dropped as a July 4th occasion and associated with the festival. The Tournoi is now run annually in conjunction with the Louisiana Cotton Festival. The Tournoi riders battle the seven evils of cotton, with are boll-worm, boll-weevil, flood, drought, rayon, nylon and silk.
The Louisiana Cotton Queen is chosen from any girl though out the stat that must be 17 thru 22 years of age. Queen is expected to remain single during her reign of one year. The festival officials choose King Cotton, to honor an important person: a senator, a congressman, a state governor, the president of a university etc.
The first Cotton King was Dave Pearce and the first Cotton Queen was Janice Marie Herbert, she along with the Tournoi Queen made the trip to Washington D.C. for the Mardi Gras Ball. Queen Cotton has made that trip ever since.
An addition to the Cotton Royalty was selected in 1960 with “Colonel Cotton” a person who had greatly helped the community through farming or in business, or civic accomplishments. The first Colonel Cotton was Dr. B.A. Soileau who owned a cotton gin.
In 1957 the “Cotton Pickers” was formed, they are the official festival entertainers that sing and dance at each festival event. And in 1962 a new feature to the festival was added it was the old folks dance or “Contradanse” (a French square dance) performed by middle- aged people to the accompaniment of a French band. This dance is held on the Tuesday night as the start of the festival. In 1975 the Cotton Royalty grew once more with the addition of LeRoi et LaReine de la Maison de Sante Nursing Home (the king and queen of the nursing home). The elderly couple is chosen as king and queen and they reign over the Contredanse.
Also in 1962 yet another royalty was named as Grand Marshall of Parade. This honor is giving to a person man or women that is greatly appreciative for the accomplishments they do for the cotton festival or and Ville Platte. As the Festival grew many clubs and organizations helped the association by running the many events held during the festival week. The Festival could not have continued with out the help of these organizations and clubs that still help as of this day.
To this date the Louisiana Cotton Festival week starts off with the annual Contredanse held on the Tuesday night, Wednesday afternoon the local 4-h clubs holds a cooking contest and a pet show, along with opening of the carnival that will be open each night till the last day of the festival which is Sunday. Friday night at the festival is the annual Fais – Do- Do (street dance), where local bands come to entertain the fair goers. On Saturday morning, the lovely ladies that will compete for the Cotton crown report for the weekend. They will be judged in an interview, then that night at the Queens Coronation, the King Cotton and all who attend will find out what lovely lady will be picked as the Cotton Queen. Along with the Contestants are area Festival Queens that come as Queen Cotton’s guest, these ladies travel the state promoting each of their festivals and form a sisterhood of the rhinestones.
On Sunday, there is a beautiful harvest mass to give thanks to our Creator for all of the crops bounty. That after noon, there is a colorful parade with floats, visiting, queens, marching bands, antique cars, and the Tournoi riders in there silvery knighted regalia, and is climaxed by King and Queen Cotton reviewing their subjects on royal floats.
After the parade the ancient jousting game known as Le Tournoi is ran at the Tournoi grounds, where the winner of “Le Tournoi” receives a kiss of victory bestowed upon him by the Tournoi Queen.
The Louisiana Cotton Festival Association would like to invite all to this unique festival tradition, and come have a “Cotton Pickin’ Good Time!”.