Making an entrance: Evangeline Water Ceremony kicks off 45th Annual International Acadian Festival

PETER SILAS PASQUA ppasqua@postsouth.com
2013 Evangeline Queen Deanna Kaycee Keller waves upon arrival by canoe at the Plaquemine Lock State Historic Site in the International Acadian Festival's traditional Evangeline Water Ceremony along Bayou Plaquemine on Saturday evening. She followed canoes that carried her Indian princesses. The ceremony followed Mass at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church spoken in both English and French. 
COURTESY PHOTO/Danielle Leonard

PLAQUEMINE - The Knights of Columbus Plaquemine Council 970's 45th International Acadian Festival's presentation of the Evangeline Water Ceremony along the Bayou Plaquemine Waterfront Park went off without a hitch following Mass at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church spoken in both English and French on Saturday evening.

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, this year portrayed by Deanna Kaycee Keller, before fireworks and music followed.

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.

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 Don Rich will last from 8-11 p.m., while Gulf Coast Wrestling will be held from 7-8:30 p.m.

Gates open at 11 a.m. on Saturday with a beauty pageant and horseshoe tournament. The Bar L Rodeo will be held from 6-8 p.m. while Chee Weez will provide music from 8 p.m.-midnight.

The 2013 International Acadian Festival Parade will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday in between Citizens Bank and Iberville Bank. It will proceed down Eden St. all the way to Belleview Road. Then it will make a right and continue down Belleview and end at Plaza Drive by the Iberville Parish Civic Center.

Gates open at 11 a.m. Sunday followed by Acadian heritage demonstrations from noon - 3 p.m. The rodeo returns from 4-6 p.m. and Rockin' Doopsie performs from 6-9 p.m.

All you can ride specials are from 6-9 p.m. on Friday, noon-4 p.m., 4-8 p.m. and 8 p.m.-midnight on Saturday and 1-5 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. on Sunday.