LUTCHER, La. (WAFB) - Residents of Louisiana’s river parishes are getting ready to celebrate a centuries-old tradition on Christmas Eve on the levees of Lutcher and Gramercy.
“I tell everybody – you come. It’s a magical time in St. James Parish,” Rhonda Lee, a lifelong resident of Lutcher, says of the tradition.
“People start flocking to our little town. And you go up on the levee. And it’s like a little Mardi Gras in certain places. And it’s the best feeling in the world to see those bonfires go up,” Lee explains.
And this year marks the 30th anniversary of their annual festival of the bonfires held the second weekend in December.
“We’re just a preview to the big bonfires that is going happen on Christmas Eve,” Lee says.
The festival includes a carnival midway, crowning of a festival of the bonfires queen and more.
“People don’t realize is to encourage tourism, but it’s also for all our bonfires builders,” Lee says.
And then the magic happens Christmas Eve!
“We’re either lighting the way for Papa Noel to come and bring all our little children toys. Or we were lighting our way to go to midnight Mass,” Lee explains.
Residents begin assembling the bonfire structures as early as Thanksgiving week. Over 100 in all.
“But I can tell you these people have it down to a science. If that bonfire’s built right, and that wind’s burning right, it’s to fall in back of the levee. And I can guarantee you there’s at least 30 tour buses. They from all over the world. We have people from Australia that plan their vacation. Last night I was talking to people from Kansas. I get teary-eyed because this tradition means so much to me. St. James people are the best people in the world. And I truly love them all,” Lee says.
To ensure a good place to park, Rhonda Lee encourages you to arrive early on Christmas Eve.
Some people come at noon and spend the day. The bonfires are lit at 7 p.m. on Dec. 24.