Clinton celebrates July 4th with two separate festivals

Small town festivals are a fixture in Louisiana. And, come the Fourth of July, the rural town of Clinton in East Feliciana Parish will be bustling with not one, but two festivals this year: the established Red, White and Blueberry Festival hosted by town officials and the new Red, White and Blue Festival organized by the local Lion’s Club.

While the names are similar, the two festivals are not connected.

However, both festivals will run on Friday and Saturday and both will have fireworks and blueberries for sale. The festivals will take place near each other, with the blueberry festival stationed at Courthouse Square and the new celebration located just north of Clinton at the American Legion Park.

The blueberry festival is a 9-year-old tradition for the town of about 1,600 people and celebrates the area’s local blueberry crop as well as Independence Day.

Clinton Mayor Lori Ann Bell said the celebration will feature a wild-game cookout, inflatables, vendors, live music and liturgical dances. It also will have an opening ceremony highlighted by speeches by local officials and candidates, including Bell, District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla and the two candidates running for 20th Judicial District judge, Betsy Jones and Sidney Picou Walker.

Admission will be free, as it always has been, Bell said.

She is unsure how many will attend the blueberry festival but is confident it will do well despite competition from the newcomer.

“We’re not worried,” she said.

The new festival is a fundraiser for veterans groups and is expected to draw at least 5,000 people over the two-day period, said Lewis Savoie, chairman of the Red, White and Blue Festival.

“For a first-year festival, that’s phenomenal,” he said.

Savoie expects a high turnout because several veterans groups across the state have already signed up, not to mention the response he has seen from local residents.

“We’re a very small, rural area of the state and … people have just rallied around it,” he said.

The fundraiser will have live music, vendors, a classic car show, 5K races and a softball tournament, among other activities.

One standout is the Eddie Hopper Memorial Greased Watermelon Relay Race, created in honor of a beloved produce wholesaler who died four years ago.

Hopper was known throughout the area for selling produce, particularly watermelon. But he also was known for being a good guy who was active in the community.

“Eddie was an all-around happy person. He was very generous,” said Dana Tucker, his widow.

Savoie originated the relay race three years ago while working on the blueberry festival after Hopper’s son, Trey, asked him if he could do something in memory of his dad.

The game is played with three-person teams who carry greased watermelons through an obstacle course. The team with the best time wins.

Trey, 13, also will sell watermelons at the festival, fulfilling his dream of following in his father’s footsteps.

Like the blueberry festival, the new celebration will also have an opening ceremony with state officials. Those expected to attend include state Rep. Kenneth Havard, R-Jackson; U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La.; a representative for state Sen. Rick Ward III, R-Port Allen; and a representative for U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.

The new festival will raise funds for veterans groups with an admission charge of $2 for adults and $1 for children, excluding veterans and active military members, who get free admission.

Festivalgoers can also directly donate to groups since several plan to be there, including the Wounded Warrior Project.

While organizers for the two festivals did not work together this year, Bell said she hopes next year they can get together to plan one big festival.

“It’s about strength and unity,” she said.

Savoie also said the Lion’s Club wants to work closely with city officials in the future.

“We’re looking forward to working together with the mayor next year,” he said.

To learn more about the Red, White and Blue festival, visit its Facebook page or call Savoie at (225) 281-3144.

For more about the Red, White and Blueberry Festival, call the town of Clinton at (225) 683-9357.