The Oyster Queen, the Shrimp and Petroleum Queen, the Rice Queen. South Louisiana has a unique tradition of celebrating its rural crops with an array of festivals and beauty pageants.
Ponchatoula, for instance, hosts the Louisiana Strawberry Festival and its Strawberry Queen competition in April. Breaux Bridge has its Crawfish Festival and Miss Crawfish competition in May. Ville Platte hosts the Louisiana Cotton Festival and Miss Cotton competition in October. And there’s more than a dozen others celebrating everything from frogs to ducks to boudin.
A New York Times feature published Thursday, Feb. 20, travelled the I-10 corridor to see how those festivals continue to celebrate even though their crop yields have decreased because of climate change. In Morgan City, home to the Shrimp and Petroleum Festival, floods in recent years and an overflowing Atchafalaya River have pushed more freshwater into the marshes and pushed shrimp harvests further away from the rural community.
In Crowley, home to the state’s biggest and oldest festival—the International Rice Festival—rice farming has become a tough business due to erratic weather, the U.S.-China trade wars and the dwindling number of family farms.
But still, these festivals and pageants persist. As The New York Times notes, pageant contestants aren’t normally asked about the struggles of the local agriculture industries. But every now and then, a loaded question sneaks in.
At Ville Platte’s cotton pageant, contestants were asked: “Cotton used to be king in Evangeline Parish, but it’s no longer grown there. What can you do to make sure we keep it alive for future generations?”