The Franklin Parish Catfish Festival has come to the end of its run after nearly 33 years, said Paul Price Jr, festival director.
A rain-impacted event in 2018, severe weather in 2019 and the corona virus in 2020 took a financial toll on the long running festival, board members said in an open letter published in this week’s edition of The Franklin Sun.
“With a yearly budget in excess of $125,000, we relied heavily on Mother Nature to provide a pretty day to generate a good gate, worked hard to fill the streets with vendors selling quality goods, and maintained generous partnerships with our sponsors for the expressed goal of breaking even so we could do it again the following year,” Price said. “We were blessed with good weather for the first 30 years.”
Also factoring into the Festival’s demise was a Winnsboro Town Council $200 peddler’s license and monetary charges from Winnsboro to pay for police and town crews.
Winnsboro Town Councilmen passed a $200 itinerant vendor and peddler’s fee during their regular meeting Oct. 20. The measure passed on a 4-1 vote with Town Council member Jerry Johnson giving the only no vote.
Town Council member Rex McCarthy made the motion with a second from Town Council member Tyrone Coleman.The ordinance originated from a 2001 Louisiana law stipulating all arts and craft shows acquire an annual operating license not exceeding $200. Under the law, all vendors / peddlers will have to exhibit their occupational licenses they receive from Winnsboro.
Those classified as a 501(c)3 and those living in Franklin Parish are exempt from fees and license.
The ordinance has been on Winnsboro’s books for years but no previous administration has upheld it.
“We don’t have a category set up in Winnsboro’s budget to handle festival costs,” Dumas said. “We have to follow the law of the auditor and the Town Council of Winnsboro.”
According to Dumas, Winnsboro pays approximately $5,000 worth of overtime in town employee salaries, more than $4,000 in police salaries and more than a $400 electric bill during Franklin Parish’s Catfish Festival, the biggest event Winnsboro hosts.
“We had four meetings with part of the (Franklin Parish Catfish) Festival board,” Dumas said. “They requested a 100 percent donation of police and town workers salaries.”
In the meetings, Dumas said his administration’s budget manager, Cal Pierce, had a budget for the festival board that showed a gate fee increase that “would’ve more than paid for their expenses.”
Through the years, Festival organizers have made donations to Winnsboro.
“Over the years, we’ve donated flags, made donations to schools across the parish, helped fund the Christmas parade, donated to community projects, help build a playground, and gave tens of thousands of dollars for scholarships for parish students,” Price said. “We worked diligently to be sure any money made was put directly back into our community. We also made a yearly $2,000 contribution to the Town of Winnsboro.”
Members of the Franklin Parish Catfish Festival are: Price, Jimmy Cloesser, Kay LaFrance-Knight, Lindy Price, Nathan Roberts, Celeste Shivers, Nikki Stewart, Cloid White, Dustin Wright and Leslie Young.
“Perhaps down the road there will be a group come along with a vision similar to those in the mid-1980s: Let’s do something to promote our parish and town in a positive, family-friendly manner, something that will be enjoyed by all with a positive impact on those involved, and something that will provide fond memories for those who are a part of it,” Price said. “Let’s hope that day comes soon.”