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Pirates will be taking over the lakefront May 1-11. (American Press Archives)

Pirates will be taking over the lakefront May 1-11. (American Press Archives)

Kids at Contraband

Last Modified: Monday, April 28, 2014 1:13 PM

By Warren Arceneaux / American Press

Contraband Days is making an effort to continue growing by making the festival more friendly to families and children.

This year’s festival will be May 1-11.

The early part of the first two days of the festival are used to bring in children from throughout Southwest Louisiana to view a few of the festival attractions without the hustle and bustle of big crowds.

The primary attraction is the live shark exhibition. For those first two days, the show is geared toward the kids in attendance.

“We have been doing this for the last four years. Every year it has been growing and growing,” said festival director Annette Richey.

“A lot of the schools have been embracing it because we are offering it just for them. The entertainers can concentrate on just the children, and there are not a lot of people here during the day because our events don’t start until 4 p.m. Schools can bring their kids out without a big crowd walking around, so they won’t be distracted.”

Richey said having Millennium Park nearby makes it easy for schools to make a day of the trip to the festival.

“With the new Millennium Park, the kids can go from us to there to have a picnic,” she said.

“That is what most of what the schools do. We try to give little treats like an eye patch. We have a few Buccaneers here and one of their floats. Each class gets to go on the float to take pictures. We try to make it family-friendly, and it has been evolving over the years. It has been welcomed by the community and has been exciting. We had two schools from Beauregard Parish come last year. The age range is usually 3-12. Day care centers will come with 3- to 4-year-olds.”

The entire opening day of the festival is geared toward families.

“This year we are having the shark tank, and the Family Night is Thursday night. The carnival is having a special Ride Night with lower costs, and there is no alcohol on grounds that night,” said Richey.

“We are bringing in family bands that night so the music is more on the Christian side. The pirates have more interaction with the children that night — let them get on the floats and things like that. That night has been building every year.”

Richey said getting family units out benefits the festival and community as a whole.

“We are here for everyone; we want to make Contraband Days a bigger and better festival,” she said.

“Our economic impact study came in last year and said we had an impact of $6.8 million. It has grown and helped put more money back into the community through people going into the restaurants and things like that. By us getting more family-friendly, it is helping make that economic impact better. We are trying to do more things to attract more people, and that helps the impact grow.”

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