Grand entrance

Evangeline 2012 arrives.....Caroline Antoinette Stassi, arrived Saturday night at the Plaquemine Locks in the International Acadian Festival's traditional water ceremony. She followed canoes that carried her Indian princesses.

The Knights of Columbus Plaquemine Council 970's 44th International Acadian Festival's presentation of the Evangeline Water Ceremony along the Bayou Plaquemine Waterfront Park went off without a hitch following a St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church Mass Celebration in English and French on Saturday evening, according to Evangeline Coordinator Mickey "Rico" Rivet.

"Everything went smooth," said Rivet, who is retiring as coordinator after 21 years of service. "I am going to finish out the rest of the year. I have been telling people, if I had 21 daughters, I would want one just like each of the past 21 Evangeline queens. Everyone was different, but special and I appreciated it."

The ceremony officially kicked off the festival's revelry as costumed Native Americans paddled Indian Princesses by canoe down the torch lit bayou as the sun set to herald the way for Evangeline, portrayed by Caroline Antoinette "Annette" Stassi this year, before fireworks and music followed.

"Evangeline and the Indian princesses are on canoes and they come down the bayou just like the Acadians did," said Rivet, who will be replaced by Barry Comeaux next year. "It tells a story and is a very unique ceremony - something that I have cherished being a part of."

The brief re-enactment of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "Evangeline" focuses on the arrival of the namesake in search of her lost lover, Gabriel, and accompanied by her maidens.

The ceremony has long accompanied the festival, originally named the "Cajun Festival," which began in 1969, as a way to bring publicity and instill pride in the city. It was spear headed by former Post South owner Gary Hebert and others who felt that the undertaking should have a purpose and direct link to the community it represented.

Since many residents were directly descended from the Acadians who were exiled from Nova Scotia, the idea to preserve and enhance that heritage was brought forth.

Legend has it that Emmeline LaBiche (Evangeline) traveled through Plaquemine on the waters of the bayou on her journey to the Teche Country in search of Louis Arceneaux (Gabriel). The story says she spent the night on the banks of the bayou and thus, the basis of the festival was formed and the queen was named "Evangeline."

The festival officially moved to its current site at the C.M. "Mike" Zito Multi-Purpose Center in 2005 and helps the Knights of Columbus raise funds for projects throughout the year, according to Head Festival Chairman Mike Watts.

"We try to bring in as many people in to enjoy a relaxing, affordable, good time," Watts said. "It has evolved from then to what it is now but we continue to have demonstrations on the area's heritage."

Althea Bumpers won the Festival Cooking Contest with a persimmon fig cake Sunday and Dow Chemical Co. sponsors parish-wide special needs children hours Thursday from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.

A ribbon cutting and blessing of the grounds will be held at 5 p.m. Friday as the gates open followed by a Texas Hold 'Em Tournament at 6 p.m. Music by Jason Martin & The Corner Pocket will last from 9 p.m. - midnight.

Gates open at 11 a.m. on Saturday with a decorated golf cart show at 1 p.m. A bull bash will run from 7 - 9 p.m. and Rockin Dopsie will perform from 9 p.m. - midnight.

The 2012 International Acadian Festival Parade will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday beginning at the Knights of Columbus home on Price St. before proceeding to Regina St., St. Clement Ave., Marshall St., LaBauve Ave., Eden St., Belleview Dr., Sebastian Road and ending on Price.

"The parade will be back better than ever," Ladies Committee Chairperson Fran Comeaux said. "The Tug of War is something we haven't had in a while and we are bringing it back this year."

Gates open at 11 a.m. followed by Acadian heritage demonstrations from noon - 3 p.m. A beer drinking and eating contest will also be held at 3 p.m. followed by Tug-O-War and Catch A Pig contests along with a bull bash from 4 - 6 p.m. David St. Romain performs from 6 - 9 p.m.