The public can hold and take photos with baby alligators 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday during Tourism Appreciation Day at the Louisiana Oil and Gas Park in Jennings. There will also be face painting and free hot dogs and soft drinks and a car show. (Doris Maricle / American Press)
Last Modified: Friday, May 02, 2014 10:55 AM
JENNINGS — The Jeff Davis Parish Tourist Commission is putting the spotlight on local tourism Saturday during Tourism Appreciation Day.
The event will be 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Louisiana Oil and Gas Park (Exit 64) as part of National Tourism Week.
“We want to show our appreciation to the individual tourists by doing something for them free in the park,” Tourism Director Marion “Butch” Fox said. “Tourists spend quite a bit of money in all our Louisiana towns and parishes, and we want to thank them for that.”
There will be face painting, free hot dogs and soft drinks. Visitors can also hold and pose for a photo with one of four baby alligators and view seven larger alligators and a turtle at the Gator Chateau.
The public will also have the opportunity to enjoy the services of the park’s visitor center and its 11-acre pond, jogging and walking trial, playground and picnic area.
The Pistons and Flake car show will take place 8 a.m.-4 p.m. in the park. Admission to the show is free to spectators.
Tourism continued to increase last year in Jeff Davis Parish, with an average of 5,000 visitors a month to the Gator Chateau alone, Fox said.
Tourism in the parish has become a multimillion-dollar industry, with tourists spending $18 million last year and creating 140 local jobs in the tourism industry, which includes hotels, restaurants, attractions and retail, according to Fox.
The parish also collected $430,000 in taxes from local tourism spending, including food, fuel, lodging and entertainment.
Statewide the tourism industry had a record-breaking year with 27.3 million visitors, resulting in $10.8 billion in total visitors spending and $807 million generated in state tax revenue, according to information released by Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne.
Holding the baby alligators is among the parish’s biggest draw for tourists, Fox said.
“Our baby alligators and our billboards on Interstate 10 draw a lot of people in,” she said. “They see the signs and want to stop to hold a baby alligator and take pictures with them.”
Visitors can watch staff feed the alligators and turtle at 3:30 p.m. Fridays beginning in mid-May.
“Once we get them to the Gator Chateau we are able to give them information on other things to see and do in the area,” said Tourist Commission Marking Director Dione Sablehaus.
Visitors also partake in the area’s many museums, restaurants, shopping, hunting, water sports, agriculture tourism and festivals.
A new attraction for the parish is the Rum Crawl group tour, featuring day trips or overnight stays. Highlights include a party bus, holding baby alligators, tours of the Louisiana Spirits Bayou Rum distillery, lunch or dinner at a local restaurant featured on the Louisiana Culinary Tour, speciality drinks and local snacks and an overnight stay at a local hotel.
For more information, call 821-5534 or 821-5521 or visit www.jeffdavis.org.