False River boat parade back on for July 4 weekend

The popular False River Fourth of July Boat Parade is back on, just days after the event’s organizers announced they’d have to cancel it this year.

New Roads Mayor Robert Myer said Wednesday that the city is stepping in to take over and ensure the popular tradition continues, although it will be on Saturday, July 5, this year.

“As mayor of the parish seat, I just couldn’t feel good about letting a 30-year-old event like the False River Boat Parade die without an effort to save it,” Myer said.

The family that has organized the event for the past decade had said they had to give it up because of new pressure from the state to obtain liability insurance and provide adequate security patrols for the safety of participants — a burden they weren’t prepared to shoulder.

Myer said the parade is an important event for the city.

“This event is one that fits into my vision for New Roads and Pointe Coupee Parish to continue to promote recreation and fun for our residents, while encouraging and developing more and more tourism opportunities,” he said.

For the past 30 years, the False River Boat Parade has attracted hundreds of recreational boaters to the oxbow lake on the holiday weekend to participate in the event’s themed boat-decorating competition and a jovial water-balloon fight.

Members of the Barker family have been the driving force behind the boat parade’s organization over the past decade, after taking over responsibility for it from the event’s founder.

Family members said last week that the event had become too much to handle because of pressure from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to obtain an approved marine event permit, with liability insurance and security.

They family also noted that fewer people were decorating their watercraft for the parade and more were simply anchoring their boats in the middle of the south end of the lake to have a floating party.

Myer said the city intends to carry on the parade’s long-standing tradition of themed boat decorating but with some changes, including when the event will take place this year.

This year’s boat parade will sail through New Roads on Saturday, July 5, instead of on the Fourth of July. The date change allows the city to host the boat parade in conjunction with its annual River Rhythms Fest at Morrison Parkway.

The Morrison Parkway Boat launch will serve as the new setting for the boat parade this year.

Myer said the change will allow spectators attending the live-music festival to watch the parade from the shoreline.

“Having this event at the same time as the River Rhythms Fest will allow us to have the boat parade earlier in the day, then continue with fun and live music downtown,” he said. “We already do several events like this on the river — such as the Blessing of the Boats on Memorial Day.”

Myer said Wednesday that the city has already reached out to the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff’s Office for safety and patrol measures and has applied to the state for the marine event permit.

“The city doesn’t expect any additional costs to do this,” Myer said. “The event is still going to be free and open to the public.”

Branden Barker, whom the mayor has appointed as co-chairman for the event, said details of this year’s theme have yet to be decided.

“I’ll be working with the city to help in the event’s transition to New Roads,” Barker said. “ In the next couple of weeks, we’ll be ironing out all of the details, but for right now, we’re just glad the boat parade is going to stay on False River.”

Barker said having it at the Morrison Parkway boat launch is going to allow spectators to come out and see the parade, which wasn’t previously an option.

“With the festival immediately following, it should be a great day,” Barker said.

Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.