The organizer of the Second Annual Denham Springs Fair set for this Friday, Saturday and Sunday says he believes this year’s event will be even bigger than last year’s, which would be quite an accomplishment.
Set for the first weekend in April and held at South Park on Vincent Road, two miles south of I-12, the 2016 fair was a tremendous success, according to co-organizer Tony Jarreau.
The fair will be open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on Sunday, the fair will open at 10 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.
“Our goal when we started it last year was that we’d be successful enough to continue to do it every year and last year was outstanding,” his partner in the fair Greg Brooks said. “We had about 10,000 come last year, which is great for a first-time event.”
“And I think that everybody that came really enjoyed themselves,” Jarreau said, continuing he was pleased with how smoothly the fair went, especially considering it was the first one. “We had absolutely no incidents, the grounds stayed clean and we had great live entertainment.”
“So after having gotten such a good response the first time, weather permitting, I’m hoping for a lot more people this year,” he continued, admitting the weather was a concern. “All we’re worried about is the weather.”
“As long as it doesn’t rain, I expect we’ll have another great event,” Brooks said. “Rain is a killer for fairs and Louisiana weather is crazy.”
Children give little thought to weather – they are most concerned about the carnival rides at fairs and Jarreau said they needn’t worry.
“This year, we’ll have a lot more rides than last year,” he said. “Last year, we had rain that Friday afternoon, the first day of the fair, which kept us from being able to bring in some of the bigger rides because they’ll sink in the soft ground.”
“We’re expecting better weather this year so we should have way more rides, including a bunch for adults and a full carnival for the kids with all the games and rides they love,” Brooks said.
All-you-can-ride bracelets will be available for each day of the fair, with $20 allowing anyone with a bracelet to ride whatever they want as many times as they want for four hours.
In an effort to give back to the community, Jarreau and Brooks said the fair will be open only for the Tangipahoa Association for Retarded Citizens (TARC), with free admission for all of the rides for the disabled children the organization serves from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Sunday morning.
“They can get all the free rides they want and they get free meal tickets,” Jarreau said. “The park’s all theirs, like it’s their own carnival for a while.”
“We will have someone monitoring each ride and we will stop one at any time if we see that a kid isn’t enjoying it or if they seem a little scared,” Brooks said, adding the TARC children who were at last year’s fair “were grinning ear-to-ear” while they were at the fair.
And no fair or festival in south Louisiana is complete without live music.
This year’s entertainment will include the popular – and local – rising country music star Chase Tyler on Friday from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. and on Saturday, ‘80s and ‘90s cover band Orphan Annie will take the stage from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., with Downfall closing out the evening’s music.
“We don’t charge a cover to get into the fair like most do, money the other organizers use to pay for their bands,” Brooks said. “Because of our great sponsors, we don’t have to charge to get in to the fair.”
Sponsors for the fair include Realtor Veenendaal, Sarita’s Grill and Cantina, the All Star Automotive Group, Livingston Parish Tourism, Laguna Beach Daiquiris, Envoy Mortgage and Sheriff Jason Ard.
“Sheriff Ard will have deputies interacting with the crowd and his cadets help with parking,” Jarreau said. “So there’s a huge Sheriff’s Office presence and this is a very close community – everybody knows everybody – so we can be almost certain nothing will happen.”
Carnival food is always necessary at any good fair and the Denham Springs Fair will have its share.
Jarreau said all the traditional carnival fare would be there – funnel cakes, chicken on a stick, hot sausage on a stick, boiled crawfish, jambalaya, cracklins, boiled peanuts, hot dogs, soft pretzels and with Sarita’s as a sponsor, there will also be Mexican offerings.
“We all know one another in this community,” Brooks said. “Of the 10,000 people who came to the fair last year, it was likely that everybody knew everybody. It was a wonderful event, it really was.”
The Denham Springs Fair has its beginnings in an invitation from Brooks, a longtime friend, who asked Jarreau to help with the live music portion of a festival Brooks organized somewhere else.
“After his festival, I asked him, ‘Why don’t we go back to our hometown and put on an event like a fair,’” Jarreau asked. With both having had experience with organizing and staging fairs and festivals, it was an easy decision.
“Denham Springs is Livingston Parish’s flagship city and I think it deserved its own fair,” Jarreau said.
A beauty pageant is a possibility for future Denham Springs Fairs, but not unless the right director can be found.
“That’s something we’re looking into,” Jarreau said. “We have the stage, we have the right setup, I’m just looking for a reputable pageant director to put it on.”
“I’d love for a beauty pageant to be a part of the fair and I’d really like for it to be a preliminary to the Miss Louisiana or Miss Louisiana USA pageant,” he continued. “I would love to have a Miss Denham Springs compete for a state title.”
Both men hope the festival will become a mainstay in their hometown.
“Hopefully we can just keep doing it, year after year,” Jarreau said. “It’s something I hope goes on long after I’m gone.”
Tommy Comeaux is the Lifestyle editor at The Livingston Parish News. He can be reached via email at TommyComeaux@gmail.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @tommycomeaux.