Queen reigns without festival

Advocate staff photo by ADAM LAU -- Boucherie queen Lauren Blouin poses for a portrait at her mother's home in Prairieville.
Advocate staff photo by ADAM LAU -- Boucherie queen Lauren Blouin poses for a portrait at her mother's home in Prairieville.

Lauren Blouin, 20, is a queen without a festival.

The LSU sophomore and Dutchtown High School graduate was crowned Miss Sorrento Boucherie Festival queen Sept. 22, but, for the second year in a row, there won’t be a festival for her to reign over.

That fact hasn’t curtailed Blouin’s determination to experience all there is to offer a festival queen in Louisiana.

Since crowning, she’s attended two gumbo festivals, celebrations honoring several Louisiana cites and pageants in Opelousas and Ville Platte.

She even traveled to tiny Gheens for the town’s Bon MangĂ© festival.

The Boucherie Festival, which started in 1978 as a way to celebrate the area’s Cajun culture, was canceled in 2011 after the Ascension Parish School Board, owners of the Ascension Civic Center, the site of the event, announced plans to use the center as a warehouse.

The festival featured cracklin and jambalaya cooking contests, food, carnival rides, a parade and music.

The Sorrento Lions Club, which organizes the festival, announced earlier this year that plans for the festival were again put on hold. The last festival was held in October 2010.

Pageant organizer Tammy Longanecker decided to continue the Boucherie Festival pageant, awarding crowns in several different age groups.

Longanecker and Blouin said that Sorrento is not the only town to still have a queen without a festival.

“I still make appearances and spread the word about the town,” Blouin said.

Blouin said she’s having fun and learning a lot about herself as she traverses the state.

“I’ve been to a lot of places that I didn’t know existed,” she said.

Blouin’s decision to enter the pageant was a last minute one and a surprise to her mother, D’Andre Blouin.

“She called me up one day and asked ‘What are you doing tomorrow? I’m going to be in a pageant,’ ” D’Andre said.

Lauren’s college roommate, Kaelah Cobb, was the festival’s 2011 queen and had talked about her travels for almost a year.

“We talked about me entering every now and then,” Lauren said. “She asked me about it again and I finally said ‘Let’s do it.’ ”

Cobb helped Lauren get a dress and prepare her pageant walk.

“Her family helped out that day and I won,” Lauren said.

D’Andre, who had a work-related event that day, arrived in time to see her oldest daughter crowned.

D’Andre is still shocked that her daughter is a pageant queen. Most in Lauren’s family wouldn’t describe her as a “pageant girl,” D’Andre said.

D’Andre described her daughter, who has a twin brother, as an introvert who is not as outgoing as her brother.

Lauren, who is studying sports administration, said she met lots of new “rhinestone sisters,” the phrase used to describe other pageant queens.

“I’m really enjoying the brave new world of pageants,” Lauren said

“It’s helped me come out of my shell,” she said.

“I can’t be shy,” she said of making personal appearances as the Boucherie queen. “You have to put yourself out there.”

Lauren said the experience she’s getting through her crown will help her with college and her career.

“I needed this now,” she said. “I’ve learned I can’t stay in my shell.”

“The girls are friendly and it’s a big pageant family,” she said.

Lauren and her mother have grown closer through the experience.

“It’s making me appreciate her more than ever,” Lauren said.

Since the crowning, Lauren’s weekends have been filled with appearances. She’s been on a swamp tour, made an apron representing the Boucherie Festival, pet a calf and ridden countless carnival rides.

She’ll ride in Sunday’s Christmas Parade in Gonzales and compete in the Queen of Queens pageant in February.

“I wish we had a festival,’ she said. “But I’m having fun either way.