It started with dinner, a card game, and a bag of cracklins. 36 years later, Port Barre still celebrates with purpose

St. Landry Parish

PORT BARRE, La. (KLFY) — Cracklin fans are descending on Port Barre for the 35th annual Cracklin Festival this weekend. The event has changed in size over years, but the purpose has never changed.

News 10 spoke to members of the Port Barre Lions Club who were youngsters at the first Cracklin Festival. Their fathers invented it, and now they carry the legacy.

In late 1984, Terminator was in the theaters, pop-rock was topping the charts, and in Port Barre, a little idea was born.

“Some men in the back room of a gas station decided to have a supper, play a friendly card game, and decided to come up with a fundraiser. They had a bag of cracklins, some adult beverages, and some guy came up and said why don’t we start a cracklin festival,” retold Todd Soileau, Port Barre Lions Club member.

By the next year, Soileau’s father and the other founding members of the Port Barre Lions Club organized the first Cracklin Festival. First at a boat landing, then shutting down the street. As the festival and the cemetery outgrew the space, the Cracklin Festival moved to the Veteran Memorial Park.

The Lions Club of Port Barre was formed and built through the Cracklin Festival. One of the biggest Cracklin Festivals was in 2005 when it was the first festival in Louisiana after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. And in 36 years, they’ve only missed one year, 2020, so this weekend is so important in continuing their good work.

 Every dollar raised goes to charities such as the Lions Eye Foundation, which provides glasses and no-cost surgeries for those in need, or the Louisiana Lions Camp for children with disorders and disabilities.

“The more people buy, the more we can give,” explained Gary Duplechain, Port Barre Lions Club member. “Not only in Port Barre, but in the surrounding area and the Parish of St. Landry, and we’ve even gone further out besides that anyway.”

That’s why Soileau, Duplechain, and other second-generation Cracklin Festival organizers work to make the event bigger and better every year.

Soileau said he never plans to stop, “Til’ they close the top on me. Til’ my time is over. I go to the camp every year. We go cook for them during the Summer, and when I see those kids, it gives me the energy.  Touches my heart and gives me the energy to move on and push harder more and more every year.”

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