BAKER — The Buffalo Festival started out with a few folks grilling hot dogs and selling sodas to raise money for the five public schools in the city.
Throughout the past two decades, the festival grew to feature a rodeo, then a buffalo wing cooking contest.
Thursday will mark the start of the 21st Baker Buffalo Festival and even though the rodeo and cook-off are gone, the organizers still have one goal: to raise money for Baker Heights Elementary, Bakerfield Elementary, Park Ridge Academic Magnet, Baker Middle School and Baker High School.
“It’s a huge deal for the community and for the schools,” festival Chairwoman Ginger Vann said.
Vann said the annual event now resembles a more traditional south Louisiana festival with amusement rides, live music, vendors selling food and three races.
The three-day festival, which is being held at Baker City Park at 3325 Groom Road, will kick off at 5 p.m. Thursday and wrap up at 10 p.m. Saturday.
One of the cornerstones of the festival is the parade, which starts at 10 a.m. Saturday on La. 19 and ends at Baker City Park.
The parade grand marshal this year is WBRZ news anchor Sylvia Weatherspoon.
Last year, Vann said, the festival raised $15,000 for the five schools.
“The goal this year is more than last. That’s what we are shooting for,” Vann said.
Vann said the money goes directly to the individual schools, not the school district or School Board, and the amount of money that goes to each school depends on the participation of the school’s students and staff.
The event begins at 5 p.m. Thursday when the carnival rides and vendor booths open.
The flat rate for the amusement rides is $20 on Thursday.
On Friday and Saturday, the rides cost $20 for 24 rides or $1.25 per ride.
Students from the five schools will compete in a talent show from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
The band Dunn Deal Allstars will start playing at 8 p.m. Thursday.
There will be a spelling bee at 6 p.m. and a car and bike show from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
The band, UR4RIA, will play from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday.
The Running of the Buffaloes races will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday at BRECs Greenwood Park. Registration for the three races begins at 7 a.m. The races include a 5k run/walk for ages 9 and older; a one-mile run/walk for ages 8 and younger; and a one-half mile run/walk for those with special needs.
The registration fee is $12 for adults and $6 for students.
Following the festival’s opening ceremony at 11 a.m., sponsor ExxonMobil will give away two laptop computers at 11:30 a.m.
The band Phat Hat will play from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and magician Chris Miller will perform at 2:15 p.m.
Another music act, Mellow Band, will play from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday.
For information about the festival, call Vann at (225) 774-8375.