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South Franklin Catfish Festival organizers are calling the event an overwhelming success.

Approximately 7,000 people converged on Wisner Saturday in the inaugural festival which offered visitors various vendor booths, food, classic cars and entertainment.

Elliott Britt, festival board director, said he was proud of his town’s accomplishments, and the direction it was going.

“Our community came together as one and made residents proud to call Wisner home,” Britt said. “I am so proud of where Wisner is today and even more proud of where we are headed.”

Festival goers were greeted with a cloudy but dry day, a fact Mayor Marc McCarty said greatly benefited crowd numbers.

“We had beautiful weather for the festival,” McCarty said. “Also, people were ready to get out and mingle after battling COVID-19 for over a year. I’m extremely pleased with the outcome of the whole festival. We wanted people to just enjoy themselves and have a good time, and I think that happened.”

Those attending the festival were treated to different types of food ranging from barbecue, funnel cakes and catfish. 

Haring’s Pride Catfish, a processing plant located outside Wisner that also owns catfish ponds, cooked approximately 1,300 pounds of the fish Saturday.

Additionally, arts and craft booth vendors said those in attendance were not only browsing but spending money.

“I would say the festival was extremely successful,” said K-Raye Delgado, Roamin’ River Boutique and Salon vendor. “Other businesses and I basically sold out of our inventory at the festival. I was down to a half rack of clothes and sold those the next day on Facebook through contacts I made at the festival. The board members were so nice and checked on us throughout the day to make sure we were doing good. It was a great experience.”

Additionally, South Franklin Catfish Festival hosted regional entertainment from Jon Brakefield, Hands On, James McCann, The Blues Machine, Smackwater, and the Bible Belt Buckles.

While organizers put in hard work getting the Wisner festival ready, they were quick to give credit to the long-running Winnsboro Catfish Festival for creating a trustful brand.

“I’ve said many times the South Franklin Catfish Festival is ‘brand new’ and ‘starting from scratch’ and while it’s true we had zero money and a brand new committee, there’s no  doubt that we benefited from the great reputation and goodwill generated by the original Franklin Parish Catfish Festival, and we want to acknowledge that,” said Leslie Young, board member for both festivals. “We had many, many vendors and attendees who felt the ‘catfish brand’ was one they could trust, and we worked hard to live up to that great tradition. We’re grateful to follow in their footsteps while also creating some new traditions in our little town.”

Winnsboro Catfish Festival came to an end after 34 years due to a rain-impacted event in 2018, severe weather in 2019 and the corona virus in 2020.

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.

Britt agreed with Young’s assessment.

“We really couldn’t have done it without the vendors wanting to try it out for the first year to see if we could be anything like the original one,” Britt said.

For more information about the event, visit the website: southfranklincatfishfestival.com or look for updates on the festival’s Facebook page.

“I just want to thank everyone who had a part in this festival,” McCarty said. “Special thanks goes out to Police Chief Billy Beach and our Wisner Police Department and Sheriff Kevin Cobb and the officers at Franklin Parish Sheriff’s Office.”

Britt summed up festival events up by saying he was thankful.

“I’m thankful for the committee who put in countless volunteer hours to make this happen,” Britt said. “I’m thankful for the vendors who put their faith in us on having a successful festival and thankful for the law enforcement who protected us and kept us safe. I’m thankful for our sponsors who donated to help this happen and thankful for our community for showing up.”

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