Well over 1,000 and possibly as many as 1,500 celebrated the nation’s Independence Day at the Mark A. “Tony” Gulotta Bayou Plaquemine Water Park last Wednesday.
Most were there for the fireworks and musical entertainment provided by zydeco stars Rockin’ Dopsie and the Zydeco Twisters, but the City of Plaquemine had much more to offer the large crowd.
“We were extremely pleased overall with the way it went off,” said Mayor Ed Reeves Jr. “I don’t know of anything we would change.”
“Everything went according to plan – even the weather cooperated,” he continued. “That was our biggest nemesis” Reeves said of the pop-up showers that encircled the city for much of the day, threatening the outdoor celebration. “It was touch and go for a while.”
“We were very pleased with the crowd we had,” he said, giving considerable credit to Rockin’ Dopsie and his band.
“Rockin’ Dopsie was fantastic,” Reeves said. “He was the hit of the day. He’s a showman as well as a great musician and he did a very good job.”
The mayor said Dopsie told him as he left after his performance he enjoyed being there as much as the crowd enjoyed him.
“On his way out, he said, ‘Mayor, this is the most hospitable place we’ve ever been,’” Reeves said. “We want to come back.”
Another member of the band, unaware of Dopsie’s comments to the mayor, told him, “This place is fantastic. The people were wonderful.”
The other big attraction was the fireworks display at the conclusion of the day’s events. The nearly 20-minute show – one of the largest of south Louisiana’s smaller communities – drew plenty of “oohs” and “ahhs” from the crowd below, many of whom had climbed to the top of the hill surrounding the Plaquemine Lock for the best view.
Other events going on at the park on the Fourth of July drawing people down to the park were the honoring of the veterans by the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
A boat parade was also held to carry the veterans – along with two of the city’s prettiest young ladies – with boats launching into the bayou from the launch on Bayou Plaquemine.
The lovely ladies adorning the lead boat were Zoë Bertrand, the reigning Miss Evangeline, and Miss Iberville Victoria Savoy.
The boat carrying them to the park also had as passengers the veterans to be honored – Timmy Martinez, Mike Little, James Nelson Jr., Earl Crochet, Eddie Erwin, Conrad Joffrion, Pete Edwards and Steve Verret. Each was presented with a folded American flag by representatives from the Daughters of the American Revolution.
After the veterans were honored, John “Johnny Boy” Wilbert provided a poignant moment playing “Taps” for what he said would be his final time. Wilbert, 92, is a veteran who has played the mournful song for countless military funerals and other events over the past 50 years.
“Johnny Boy has ben playing ‘Taps’ for us for at least the last 10 years,” Reeves said. “He’s always done a good job…We’ve been thankful to have him.”
The mayor then turned his attention to giving the sponsors, volunteers and city employees who made the event successful the recognition he felt was due them.
Reeves first talked about Lorraine Holliday, now in her 18th year of organizing the event. “She’s fantastic,” the mayor said and while she’s assisted by a committee of about six other volunteers, Holliday is the driving force.
“She tells us what she wants and we say, ‘Yes, ma’am,’ and give her what she wants,” he said.
Reeves said having a band the caliber of Rockin’ Dopsie and the Zydeco Twisters was made possible by the large number of generous sponsors.
“We quadrupled the amount of donations this year,” he said. “That’s when you know it’s taken off when you get good sponsors.”
Key city employees providing assistance for the celebration included city electrician Larry Sims, “who worked his tail off,” Reeves said, the Plaquemine Police Department, “who did a fantastic job” and “some great help” from the Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office, “so I want to thank Sheriff Brett Stassi for that,” and the Plaquemine Fire Department, led by Chief Darren Ramirez, which “stepped up to help us make sure everything went really well.”
“I’m very pleased with everything,” Reeves said. “The crowd, the boat parade, the fireworks, the weather, the band, the carnival – I’m pleased with everything.”