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Years have brought changes to Louisiana Fur and Wildlife Festival

Last Modified: Friday, January 11, 2013 4:32 PM

By Cliff Seiber / American Press

Things aren’t like they used to be in Cameron Parish. But the 57-year-old Louisiana Fur and Wildlife Festival — “one of the oldest and coldest” in the state — is keeping traditions alive, event organizers said.

The festival will be Friday and Saturday, Jan. 11-12, at several locations around Cameron and centered at the fairgrounds downtown. Farming will be saluted in festival activities.

Judge Penelope King, festival president, said the event will be held despite threats of bad weather. The carnival has been set up, and an alternative location for the street dances has been arranged, if needed. The festival board will meet this afternoon to determine if adjustments need to be made.

Barring further notice, dog trials will begin at 10 a.m. Friday at the Henry property. The fairgrounds will open and the carnival will begin at noon Friday, along with trap shooting. A dance with live music will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Saturday events include a gumbo cookoff at 7 a.m., trap shooting, trap setting, oyster shucking, dog trials and an appearance by Gumbeaux Gator. Gates will open at 9 a.m.

The festival parade will be at 1 p.m., lining up at Cameron Construction yard east of Cameron. Later in the afternoon there will be duck and goose calling competitions and live music.

Ben Welch Sr., participant in festival outdoor activities for more than 40 years, said conditions have changed greatly since the festival began in 1955.

Back then, fur trapping was a major industry in south Louisiana, and the trapping and skinning events were major competitions, attracting entrants from Louisiana and other states. The winners were sent to the national championships in Cambridge, Md.

Animal rights advocates have spearheaded a backlash against fur garments, prompting the closure of tanneries, principally in Germany and Italy, so there is no more fur industry, Welch said.

Also, saltwater intrusion caused by coastal erosion has reduced the population of muskrats and nutria, so even if there were a market, the supply has been all but wiped out, he said. He and his family will be at the festival demonstrating the skills, even though it is difficult to find enough animals for the contests.

His son Rusty won multiple world championships, as did his daughter, Alice Welch Little. Yancy and Ben Welch Jr. were also top competitors.

Ben Welch Jr., director of outdoor activities for the festival, said another challenge will be finding oysters for the oyster-shucking contest.

“Heavy rains in the past couple of weeks have caused health and wildlife officials to close oystering in the Calcasieu-Cameron area, so we are having a hard time locating oysters for the contest,” he said.


Friday, Jan. 11

• Noon — Gates open.

6:30 p.m. — Nik-L-Beer takes the stage.

Saturday, Jan. 12

• 7 a.m. — Gumbo cook-off? begins.

• 9 a.m. — Gates open ($5 per person; free for children 12 and under; fairgrounds open; carnival opens; trap shooting begins.

• 10 a.m. — Muskrat and nutria skinning (stage); trap setting (stage); oyster shucking (stage) Dog trials (Henry property).

• 11:30 a.m. — Gumbo cook-off? judging (fairgrounds).

• 1 p.m. — Parade begins.

• 3 p.m. — Duck- and goose-calling competition; Steel Shot takes stage.

• 7 p.m. — Don Rich takes stage.

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