Algiers Bonfire marks 25th year

New Orleans — Bonfires along Louisiana levees are a beloved Cajun Christmas tradition, serving to guide Papa Noel to good girls and boys, but this year the Algiers Bonfire is also celebrating its 25th anniversary.

The Algiers event is actually older than that. Borrowing the Cajun tradition, the first bonfire was set ablaze about 30 years ago. But Hurricane Katrina interrupted the tradition, putting it on hold for several years.

The event returned last year under the sponsorship of the Algiers Economic Development Foundation. This year, the Ferry Foundation is also a sponsor. The bonfire itself, built by the New Orleans Fire Department, is a 25-foot-tall birthday cake.

The fire is the culmination of a full day of events, said Connie Burks, of Friends of the Ferry. The Algiers Point Home Tour begins at 11 a.m., and Holidays on the Point, holiday and kid-friendly activities sponsored by Algiers merchants, will be going on from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Holy Name of Mary Church will add to the holiday atmosphere by playing carols on its church bells.

Ferry passengers will be treated to live music, including Hazel & the Delta Ramblers, and Girl Scouts will hand out candy canes, Burks said.

The evening’s festivities begin at 5 p.m. with a performance by the Marine Band New Orleans, followed by headliner John Autin at 6 p.m. and the JMB Brass band at 7:45 p.m.

Santa Claus will lead a second line over to the bonfire itself, which is located on the levee adjacent to the Algiers Ferry Landing. But he’ll slip away before the bonfire is lighted at 8:30 p.m. and will reappear in a boat.

Last year’s bonfire attracted about 5,000 people, Burks said.