Gonzales Jambalaya Festival canceled amid COVID-19 surge, disappoints community

Local News

"Good grief. Not again."

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — COVID-19, once again, has canceled local events, including one of the largest festivals in Ascension Parish.

Gonzales, known as the Jambalaya Capital of the World, canceled their famous jambalaya fest for the second year in a row due to COVID-19.

“Good grief. Not again,” said community member and local business owner Cheryl Fontenot.

This was a sentiment shared among many in the community. About 30,000 people come to this three-day festival each year.

“Yep. I hated to do it. But it was the best move,” said Jambalaya Festival President Wally Taillon.

“We need to keep people safe,” said Fontenot.

Taillon said with half of his board members sick with COVID and this fourth surge, he had to make a tough decision.

“I was thinking about the people that I would be responsible for, putting them inside buildings and outside,” he said.

He said canceling was so hard, it made him want to shed tears.

“I wanted to hold out as long as we could. Seeing what could happen, I said ‘why take a chance?”’ said Taillon.

Cheryl Fontenot said she looks forward to the 54-year-old event every year. 

“It saddens me because it is just a joyous occasion and it welcomes people from all across the world. They come, they know about it, so they don’t have a destination this year,” she said.

Food and celebrations have brought the community together over time.

“We’re friendly people. We love people and people in this area celebrate everything around food. Jambalaya was one thing they could throw anything in a pot with some rice and onions and feed a lot of people,” said  Fontenot.

“For this festival, everybody was jumping at the bits wanting to get loose. It’s a community outing,” said Taillon.

This festival has been a long-time passion for him.

Jambalaya Festival President Wally Taillon

“We would enjoy ourselves, going to the bands and listening to music. I love to do that. Listen to music and cook, that’s what it’s all about,” said Taillon.

Proceeds from the event usually go to local charities, but this year Taillon said the risk was just too high.

“As bad as I wanted to see all that cooking and meeting all these people, Hopefully, this stuff will pass on by. That’s what we are looking for,” he said.

He hopes the festival can come back to life next year. 

The Jambalaya Festival Association aims to have the event come back with an even stronger memorial weekend in 2022. 

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