Gumbo and rice, rum and Coke, love and marriage…some things just naturally seem to go together. But shrimp and petroleum? Well, if you are from Louisiana, not only does it go together, but it is also the theme of one of the state’s premiere festivals, the Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum Festival . This annual Labor Day Weekend event is Louisiana’s oldest chartered harvest festival, and was described by Time magazine as “…the best, most unusual, the most down-home, the most moving and the most fun the country has to offer.” Pretty high accolades, but I think well deserved!
The Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum Festival is held in Morgan City, which sits on the banks of the Atchafalaya River. The festival began in 1936, after a boat returned with the first load of jumbo shrimp ever caught in the area. The story goes that one of the fishermen asked the local priest to come out to the wharf and bless the shrimp fleet. Following the blessing, a little celebration took place, and it all grew from that.
For years, the annual celebration was to honor the shrimpers and fishermen, but in the sixties, the city also wanted to pay tribute to the petroleum industry which had become so important to the city’s economy. So in 1967, the town decided to honor workers from both industries at the same time, and hence the Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum Festival was born.
It should go without saying that one of the main attractions here is the fresh shrimp, prepared every way you can imagine: fried, grilled, piled high on a po’ boy, swimming in a spicy gumbo. You’ll find other Cajun specialties too like fried alligator, jambalaya, etouffee.
Of course, no festival would be complete without live music, and you can expect something for all tastes all weekend long at the Heritage Music Stage.
In addition to the great food and music, the festival will feature rides and carnival games, activities just for children, parades, and entertainment. The big Arts and Crafts Show (featuring over 100 artisans from around the area) is another major draw. Artisans from all over the country come to sell unique, handmade items.
For a lot of people who attend this event year after year, the highlights of the festival is its traditions, like the historic Blessing of the Fleet (Sunday, August 31st at 10:00 am), and the water parade which follows the blessing. You’ll see decorated shrimp boats, pleasure boats, oil industry boats, and the 2 vessels holding the Festival’s King and Queen, which meet bow to bow for a traditional toast. The day continues with the popular street parade, and ends with the spectacular Fireworks on the River show at 9:00 pm.
Yes, shrimp and petroleum may seem like a unique pairing, but Morgan City is a unique place, and trust me…the combination definitely works!