Jambalaya Festival Association planning for home of its own

Advocate staff file photo by ADAM LAU -- Jeff Bourque hunts for just the right piece of firewood for his son, Jared Bourque, during the first round of the Jambalaya Festival's jambalaya-cooking contest in May. The Bourques competed in memory of family member Jay Bourque, who passed away earlier this year. Show caption
Advocate staff file photo by ADAM LAU -- Jeff Bourque hunts for just the right piece of firewood for his son, Jared Bourque, during the first round of the Jambalaya Festival's jambalaya-cooking contest in May. The Bourques competed in memory of family member Jay Bourque, who passed away earlier this year.

Wally Taillon hopes the Jambalaya Festival Association has a home it can call its own by next spring.

The Gonzales City Council on Monday allotted $25,000 of its annual hotel-motel tax revenues to the association so that it can erect a new building to serve as its headquarters.

“The money is a big help to start with. Every little bit helps,” said Taillon, the president of the festival association.

The move was made at the behest of the city’s legislative delegation: state Reps. Johnny Berthelot and Ed Price and state Sen. Jody Amadee, all of Gonzales. Berthelot and Amadee are Republicans, Price is a Democrat.

Berthelot’s House Bill 130 cleared both houses of the Legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal last month as Act 131, redistributing monies collected as part of the Ascension Parish Visitor Enterprise Fund. The fund consists of revenue from a 2 percent sales tax on hotel and motel room occupancy in the parish.

Before Act 131 became law, Ascension Parish government collected all of the hotel/motel tax revenues, which were to be used for promoting tourism in the parish.

Under the new arrangement, the cities of Gonzales and Donaldsonville will receive $75,000 each this year, while the town of Sorrento will get $5,000. The remainder, expected to be around $345,000, will go to the parish, Berthelot said.

Gonzales will send one-third of its collections this year to the Jambalaya Festival Association, which Mayor Barney Arceneaux said was “a fair amount.”

Councilman Kenny Matassa said many residents aren’t aware of what the festival association does in the city, saying its volunteers “work tirelessly” to assist the community well beyond putting on the annual Jambalaya Festival.

“They are the No. 1 cheerleader for Gonzales,” Matassa said.

“They are the No. 1 tourism promoter in the parish, no doubt,” Berthelot added.

Beginning next year, the hotel/motel tax revenues will be distributed on a percentage basis according to the language in Act 131.

Under the new law, Ascension Parish government will receive 75 percent of the hotel/motel tax revenue with the cities of Gonzales and Donaldsonville each receiving 12 percent and Sorrento getting the remaining 1 percent.

The council has pledged to give the Jambalaya Festival Association $25,000 annually as long as the city continues to receive the hotel-motel tax money.

Taillon said the festival association cleared about $60,000 from this year’s festival, which was held May 24-26. However, most of the money is given back to local nonprofit organizations where festival cooking champions put on demonstrations about cooking jambalaya. So the additional money from the city will go a long way toward building a sorely needed headquarters, he said.

The building will be located on property donated by the city to the festival association, located on Francois Avenue near the Gonzales Police Department and the future home of Kidz Kove Discovery Park.

The site plans are finished, and Taillon said he hopes the building construction contract can be let out for bids next month. If all goes as expected, the new building would be finished in time for next May’s Jambalaya Festival.

The association currently rents five storage buildings where it keeps all of its equipment, records and even items needed for the city’s annual Christmas Parade, which also is put on by the Jambalaya Festival Association.

Taillon said that after 46 years, the festival needs its own home.

“A building is more than needed,” Taillon said. “This should have happened a long time ago. I’m so proud of Johnny and Jody to get this done and help us out.”