Opelousas will be the host to several big events this weekend. The 14th annual Step & Strut kicks off tomorrow, along with Music and Market. The Holy Ghost Catholic Creole Fest will also take place over the three day weekend as well. With so many events, Chief Perry Gallow said residents can expect a heavy influx of visitors and traffic to the area, and he cautioned that patience will be key this weekend.
Expect delays, be patient. We don't want any road rage or anything like that, which could lead to bigger problems."
One of the events, Step & Strut, will bring not only people, but horses to the city. Dave Lemelle, one the festival's co-founders said, "At any given time we might have almost 3000 horses on the grounds."
One of the event's organizers, Paul Scott said there shouldn't be any problems with accommodating the animals.
"With the space Evangeline Downs has offered us, the animals will have room to walk around and cool down and eat, and the people will have room to have fun as well."
The festival will begin Friday, and continue through Sunday. Festival attendees can expect, music, camping food, and on Sunday, a trial ride. Sheriff Bobby Guidroz said in the past there have been many complaints about the Step & Strut event. An ordinance created two years ago helped to eliminate many problems.
"Before they said they were going to have 1000 riders, but in reality they would have 3000 riders on the trail ride."
This year, he said, deputies will have "clickers," to help count the riders. Once deputies click 1000 riders, no one else will be allowed to join the trail ride. Guidroz also said in the past there were many people complaining, but until recently they had no way of knowing who the complaint was about.
"You had someone call in a complaint, but of the 1000 people riding horses, you didn't know who was who. So now, riders have to wear numbers on the back of their shirts at all times."
Guidroz said complaints consisted of urinating on public property, trespassing, theft of horses and loud noise. He said over the years, the complaints have gone down. Lemelle said the 15 years of organizing the event has allowed him to what he can do to eliminate complaints.
"We now make sure we have everything prepared, from roads to horse preparations and security. I think we have everything down."
Guidroz said one thing they do to make sure everything goes smoothly, is meet with Step & Strut's organizers, to go over a checklist.
"They need to have identifying numbers for riders, personal security. They also need flagmen to help our deputies with security. We met and go over that checklist to make sure everything is taken care of."
Participants will come from Texas, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Virginia, to name a few. Guidroz said this is great for the economy, but with so many people coming from all over security becomes a huge concern. He will provide 20 deputies to assist city police at the event. Chief Gallow said he will have 20 officers at both night, as well as plain clothed officers, and additional patrols at the Creole Fest.
"We have a few stragglers that come in and create issues and problems and we have enough policeman to handle that," Guidroz said.
As far as the Step & Strut festival, Scott, said people can expect to be entertained the entire weekend.
"We have good zydeco music, good food and (the trail ride) is a good gathering for people who ride, people you know in Texas, people you met in Oklahoma, Virginia guys, you get back together and you go ride."
A special feature has been added to the weekend. Saturday afternoon, those who are interested can participate in a live survey. A number will flash on the big stage at the event, and participants can enter the number on their cell phone to take the survey.
"This way people can tell us why they like, what they don't like. Tell us you feel about the festival, where it is going, and where it should be going." Scott said.
Even though Chief Gallow is getting ready for his department to be extremely busy this weekend, he does appreciate the traffic his city will see.
"People see what the city of Opelousas has to offer, this is a great city and we want people to come by and see just how great it is."