LAPLACE, La. – Today, the Louisiana’s River Parishes Tourist Commission (LARPTC) launched Bonfire Country, a new initiative celebrating Bonfires on the Levee with a new mascot. Saint, a 50-foot bonfire alligator, designed by Garyville’s Bonfire Builders “Blood, Sweat, and Bonfires,” was officially unveiled to commemorate this time-honored tradition.
“Bonfire Country is an incredible opportunity to showcase our unique Christmas tradition that on average attracts thousands from Louisiana and the entire U.S to the River Parishes,” said Buddy Boe, Executive Director of LARPTC. “While this year is undoubtedly different due to the pandemic, we will continue to uphold the distinct culture and rituals of our region to preserve our history, and Saint is a wonderful way to celebrate this beloved tradition.”
Traditionally, locals and visitors alike gathered every year to light 20-foot high wooden bonfires atop the Mississippi River levees to guide the way for “Papa Noël,” in observance of this centuries-old Christmas Eve tradition. This year’s celebration was cancelled due to the pandemic, but LARPTC expects visitors to commemorate the celebrated tradition all year long.
Saint has been added as a permanent fixture at the River Parishes Tourist Commission’s office in LaPlace and captures the spirit of Bonfire Country. Saint made his debut as a 78-foot bonfire structure in 2019, located near the corner of LA 44 and South Church Street in Garyville. While exceptional, Saint wasn’t alone in his creative form – the event’s bonfires often ranged from original teepee layouts to old Cajun cabins, pick-up trucks, and other indigenous cultural motifs. Local families build fires with dry woods, cane reeds, and other materials. The history and events of Bonfires on the Levees can be found at lariverparishes.com/bonfirecountry.
“Now more than ever, people are looking for ways to celebrate this holiday season,” said Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser. “Bonfire Country remains a shining example of all the great attractions Louisiana’s River Parishes has to offer.”