Organizers are bracing for a better-than-expected turnout for the first-ever South Franklin Catfish Festival, set for May 1 in downtown Wisner.
“We’re excited about the response, and also trying to deal with the logistics of a growing festival,” Chairman Elliot Britt said. “We’re concerned about parking and have the safety of our community uppermost in our minds and we’re working on solutions as the festival gets closer.”
Wisner Mayor Marc McCarty agreed that the festival is dealing with a few challenges, but remains optimistic.
“I mean, if you don’t ever do anything, you don’t have any challenges,” he said. “We are trying to do something good for our community and we’re committed to working with law enforcement and all other agencies to insure we have a safe, fun event.”
Vendor response has been good, Britt added, with some 70+ vendors committing to the festival – including arts and crafts, clothing and accessories, food and other items.
“Our festival has a relatively small footprint in the downtown area, but I think it’s going to be a fun experience for the vendors and the people attending,” Britt said.
The festival will include a vintage car show along Natchez Street (the service road along highway 15), vendor booths lining Fort Scott Street, food vendors along Hope Street with a stage and green area for eating and enjoying music behind the library and Franklin State Bank building.
“We are still working on solutions for parking the day of the festival,” Britt said.
There will be dedicated vendor parking near the grounds and organizers hope to have designated festival day parking as well.
“We need to ask for everyone’s patience and cooperation,” Britt said. “This is our first event and safety is a priority. We plan to do our part and ask for the public to exercise care and good judgment as well.”
The idea for the Wisner festival was born when the parish’s signature event – the Franklin Parish Catfish Festival in Winnsboro – announced the end of its run last fall. McCarty and the town council had already been working hard on revitalization efforts in Wisner and received a lot of encouragement to start a new catfish festival. Wisner is home to Haring’s Catfish, the parish’s only catfish processing plant, and catfish ponds.
“It just made sense for us to host something new, something definitely smaller, but a fun outdoor event for the community,” McCarty said. A committee of volunteers started meeting and planning the event and it grew from there.
Entertainment has been announced for the festival stage and includes: Jon Brakefield, 9:30 a.m.; Hands On, 10:30 a.m.; James McCann, 11:15 a.m.; The Blues Machine, 12 noon; Smackwater, 1:30 p.m.; Footloose cast from the Princess Theatre, 2:35 p.m.; and the Bible Belt Buckles at 3:30 p .m., closing out the event.
“We feel like we’ve got something for everyone in our music line-up,” Britt said.
Country, classic rock, blues, top 40, folk – it’s all represented.
“We started this festival from scratch – zero,” Britt laughed. He said businesses, individuals and organizations stepped up to offer some sponsorship funds to get the event off the ground.
“We could not do this without the support of these sponsors,” Britt said.
Sponsors include Franklin Parish Tourism, Haring’s Catfish, Franklin State Bank, WSB, Elliot Britt-Shelter Insurance, Northeast Louisiana Power Cooperative, First Baptist Wisner, Kiper Hardware and Lumber, Waller-Singer Chevrolet, Plantation Manor Nursing and Rehab, Mary Anna Nursing Home, Amazing Grace Ministries, KMAR, Super One, Ezell’s Body Shop and Towing, Ezell’s One Stop, Thomas and Loretta Peoples, Winnsboro Rotary Club, Progressive Bank, JCP Management, Winnsboro Lions Club, E Micah Hoggatt, Attorney, Jimmy R. Coughran MD, True Elevations Land Leveling, Stephens Irrigation & Drainage, The Andersons Inc, Main Street Trends, Young and Young Farms.
Festival T-shirts arrived this week and will be available for $20 from Wisner Town Hall, the Wisner branch of Franklin State Bank and the Gilbert branch of WSB.
For more information about the event, visit the website: southfranklincatfishfestival.com or look for updates on the festival’s Facebook page.