Friday, May 14, 2010 St. Tammany bureau
For the first time in 60 years, the arrival of June will not be synonymous with the Bayou Liberty Pirogue Races.
According to Beth DiMarco, who with her father, Armand "Junior" Pichon, have been the key figures in the judge's reviewing stand at the annual pirogue races, this year's event has been canceled.
Sponsored by the Bayou Liberty Civic Center, the annual festival always has been as much a family reunion as a pirogue competition and fundraiser. Families greet each other, citing familial ties; paddlers churn through the water, hoping this might be their year to go home with a gleaming trophy and a fistful of cash; and civic center volunteers serve up cheeseburgers, refreshments and heaping dishes of nachos until, at some booths, there are no more festival foods to be devoured.
This year, families will have to keep in touch through more mundane means, festivalgoers will have to get their food and music fix elsewhere, and paddlers will have to keep on dreaming.
DiMarco explained that bids are being let on a construction contract for St. Genevieve Catholic Church and that, coupled with the Bayou Liberty bridge work, necessitated the cancellation.
"It's sad, but with all the activity with the pontoon bridge being dismantled and one lane on the new bridge, I guess it would be best on the safety side," DiMarco noted.
Money raised from the event traditionally has been used for playground maintenance at the Bayou Liberty Civic Center, still in disrepair since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Bayou Liberty area in 2005. Anyone wishing to contribute to this cause, or other civic center efforts, may send a check payable to the Bayou Liberty Civic Center to 33154 Dave Pichon Road, Slidell, LA 70460.
Though disappointed about this year's turn of events, DiMarco is hopeful that by 2011 all obstacles will have been cleared for the return of the races.
As her father always says, "This is part of our heritage."
Until the event is next held, the reigning champion of the Bayou Liberty Pirogue Races will remain Richard Savoie, who lives in Bayou Gauche near Des Allemands.
Published on NOLA.com
Published in The Times-Picayune Sunday, May 16, 2010