HISTORY OF THE INTERNATIONAL RICE FESTIVAL
The following is a short history of the origin of the International Rice Festival. A Local Newspaper, Signal Associate Editor Ken Hoffpauir spent many hours researching material for the article. Special assistance rendered by:
Reverend Paul Freeland
Acadia Parish Librarian Mrs. Virginia Wilkins
Library Staff members: Mrs. Cleon Mitchell and Mrs. Leslie Roberts and Mrs. Mary June Miles of the Crowley Chamber of Commerce & Agriculture.
In 1927 the first Rice Carnival was held, and Sol Wright, a pioneer in the Rice Industry in Acadia Parish and his daughter, Edith, were chosen King and Queen. The following year, Mayor Gordon H. Brunson and Miss Margaret Francez were crowned King and Queen of the last Rice Carnival. The carnivals were held in conjunction with Armistice celebrations. From 1929 through 1936, no similar rice celebration was held in the City of Crowley.
There is still today some debate as to just who was directly responsible for suggesting that a National Rice Festival be held in Crowley.
One story has it that Commissioner of Agriculture, Harry D. Wilson, offered the idea of the festival. Wilson, according to one source, mentioned the possibility of staging such a festival to certain state officials, including Representative Smith Hoffpauir, and thus the Rice Festival was born.
But a slightly different story was carried in the Golden Jubilee Edition of the Crowley Signal in October of 1937. According to that version, the man responsible for the Rice Festival idea was former Louisiana Governor Richard Leche.
One day in Baton Rouge the governor was standing by watching as a number of photographs were being taken to publicize Louisiana products. At the time, a young lady in a rice costume was posing for the cameras. The newspaper account stated that Governor Leche suddenly jumped up and said, "Let's have a Rice Festival!" Gaining enthusiasm with each passing minute, Leche contacted Commissioner of Agriculture Wilson and Representative Hoffpauir.
Hoffpauir advised the Governor that Crowley was schedule to Celebrate it's Golden Jubilee on October 5, 1937, and that if the two celebrations could be combined, the people of Crowley and Acadia Parish would without a doubt approve of the plan.
Crowley citizens did accept the Rice Festival idea with considerable excitement, and Leche set his entire publicity staff to work building up the event. Stories about the coming festival were sent to newspapers all over the nation. Newsreel and cameramen photographed rice field scenes, which were shown at movies prior to the festival. Newspapers from Louisiana and Texas announced plans to send representatives to cover the event, and arrangements were made for two to four hours of radio coverage.
With the course plotted, the great chore of handling the specific plans and details were undertaken by R.E. "Bob" Schlicher and Justin Wilson. It was later said of the two men that their enthusiasm and dedication was infectious and their untiring devotion to planning and preparing was to a large extent responsible for the festival's tremendous success.
The day finally arrived, and Parkerson Avenue, its lampposts decorated with stalks of rice, prepared to receive the very First Rice Festival. A crowd of nearly 35,000 enthusiastic merry-makers were on hand.
In Crowley for the occasion was the 204 piece Louisiana State University Band, its director, Castro Carazo, its drum majors, Tiger Cheerleaders and "Mike" the Tiger. The LSU Band was charged with the responsibility of kicking off the festivities at 9:20 A.M. with a concert.
At 10:00 A.M. a mass wedding featuring 10 to 25 couples was to have been held, but in spite of the fact that only 2 couples showed up for the ceremonies, the exuberance of the crowd was not diminished.
Included in the events of the afternoon were the selection of the First National Rice Festival Queen, judging of the rice costumes and window displays, awarding of the prize contests, coronation of the Queen and the Grand Parade. Both Commissioner of Agriculture Wilson and Governor Leche accepted invitations to participate in the presentation of awards.
In 1942, however, World War II did what the flood of 1940 could not do, and the Rice Festival was discontinued until 1946, at which time it became international in scope and foreign princesses were invited to participate in the Queens contest.
Since October 5, 1937, new events have been added to the Rice Festival including: the frog derby, children's activities, Rice Bowl Football Game, Livestock Show and judging, the selection of a Farmer and Junior Farmer of the Year, the selection of an honoree of the Festival, plus many other events.
Crowley played host to approximately 125,000 people at the 1972 International Rice Festival. We have had many celebrities as our guest during the past years and plans are made each year to have an outstanding personality with us at the time of our festival.
Article obtained from the Crowley Chamber of Commerce ...
The Festival is held during the third weekend in October.