POSTED: Saturday, December 14, 2013 - 9:11am
UPDATED: Saturday, December 14, 2013 - 9:28am
BATON ROUGE, LA (NBC33) — St. James Parish kicked off the festival of the bonfires Friday, but it's not your ordinary shindig.
Festival Committee Member, Terry Roussel said, " [It's] south louisiana style, okay?"
But before hundreds gather to watch bonfire structures all a-glow, you've got to start with a party. And what's a party without a little chef showdown
When asked who's going to win the cookoff, gumbo chef, Billy Bourgeois laughed, "Me!"
"The signature event of this festival is our gumbo cookoff and it grows a little more each year," said Roussel.
That's right. More than 60 teams competing for just one title. "What everybody's fighting for is bragging rights. and everybody else just got to take their tails between their legs and wait for next year," he added.
But it's not just about competition. Festival goers say it's about a little something more. Nikki Bourgeois, attendee, said "I used to come here when I was a little kid, and now that I'm older, I still like to go. My dad is originally from here [and] my grandpa, my grandma. Billy Bourgeois said, "Meeting friends that you don't see for a whole year. I'm 48 years old; I've been building bonfires since I've been able to walk." No matter the background, South Louisianians all agree: "It's a tradition," said Nikki Bourgeois. "It's a tradition," added Billy Bourgeois. Roussel said, "It's mostly a eastbank tradition. Mardi gras is to new orleans what the bonfire festival is to St. James Parish."
A few other events include a 5K run, bread pudding bakeoff, and a potato salad showdown. The festival ends on Sunday. Click here  for the festival website and a full list of events.