The Louisiana Shrimp & Petroleum Festival is the state’s oldest chartered harvest festival, held every Labor Day weekend in Morgan City.
It’s been repeatedly hailed as a Top 20 event by Southeast Tourism Society and the Louisiana Office of Culture Recreation and Tourism as well as being awarded Most Outstanding Festival for festivals of 50,000 and above by the Louisiana Association of Fairs & Festivals.
How do the locals celebrate this perpetual favorite? Here are the basic terms you need to know:
A- Alligator Bites: Alligator bites and all manner of food can be found all weekend at the Cajun Culinary Classic – 25+ food booths featuring traditional Cajun food. No entry fee required.
B- Blessing of the Fleet and Water Parade: Colorfully decorated shrimp vessels, oil industry vessels and pleasure craft are blessed by a Catholic priest as they parade in Berwick Bay. Not to be missed is the breathtaking bow-to-bow “kiss” of the King’s and Queen’s vessels for a traditional champagne toast.
C- Craft Show: It’s been around half as long as the festival, and it’s a huge draw with an average of 150 booths selling their wares.
D- Dancing: Non-stop free live music in the park leads to a lot of toe tapping and dancing from Friday through Monday.
E- Eating: What is a Louisiana festival without eating? Part of this festival’s name is dedicated to a special seafood caught all summer off our coast, after all!
F- Fireworks: A spectacular display of colorful bursts falling into the dark waters of the Atchafalaya River. The Hwy. 182 bridge closed to vehicular traffic for spectator viewing. Viewing is also available on top of the Morgan City seawall and Berwick docks.
G- Games: Play games Saturday morning in Lawrence Park because it’s Children’s Day! Field events, races and contests are held.
H- Historic District: The festival takes over the downtown historic district with an estimated attendance of 120,000 annually.
I- Industry: Learn about the unusual name of this festival and the history behind the two industries that came together to form our area at the Cultural and Heritage Expo.
J- Jump House: You’ll usually find one in the Children’s Village, open Saturday and Sunday, along with a fantasy land filled with games for kids of all ages.
K- King: Pomp and circumstance abound in this time honored tradition where a King and Queen are selected to represent the festival.
L- Lawrence Park: The heart of the festival – it’s where the music stage, Children’s Village, Mass and Cajun Culinary Classic are held. Ask a local where these are located, and you’ll be told “in the park”. This is to where they are referring. It’s located at Third and Frerret streets.
M- Mass in the Park: A time honored tradition. Residents of all denominations gather for Sunday service complete with the Knights of Columbus outfitted in full regalia.
N- Non-stop Fun: From the time the ribbon is cut on Thursday evening until the last note is sung Monday night, the festival does not sleep.
O- Oil: 1967 was the year oil married shrimp and changed the face of the festival forever. By this time, the petroleum industry had firmly planted roots in the area. Despite the annexation of petroleum into its title, the festival was proud to be allowed to retain its seniority as the oldest state chartered harvest festival in Louisiana.
P- Parade: Floats and bands traverse through the downtown historic district Sunday. There’s also a Children’s Day Mini Street Parade featuring the kids as riders Saturday.
Q- Queens: Queens from festivals across the state join our newly crowned queen to celebrate this festival that pays homage to our heritage.
R- Rides: Any good festival has a fair attached, and this one is no exception. Visit the midway for rides and traditional fair games.
S- Seafood: Fried, grilled, boiled – Just about any variation of seafood can be found under the bridge or in the park.
T- T-Shirts: Bring home a souvenir of the festival with a festival t-shirt. We’ve got shirts that feature the annual poster, the “party” shirt, and more. There are several booths selling them at the festival.
U- “Under the Bridge”: This is the local terminology for the directions you’ll receive if you ask where the craft show or the fair are located. This refers to the paved area under the U.S. 90 bridge between Federal Avenue and Front Street.
V- (Children’s) Village: It features a smoking alligator, children’s putt-putt castle, Cajun fishing hole, pirate ship, doll house and more. Free and open Saturday and Sunday.
W- (Labor Day) Weekend: The festival’s humble origins began in 1936 when members of the local unit of the Gulf Coast Seafood Producers & Trappers Association, in recognition of the Labor Day holiday, held a friendly labor demonstration on that day. They were frog and alligator hunters, shrimpers, crab fishermen and oystermen parading in the streets. It was not a grand procession, but it was the first street parade and it celebrated the placid port of Morgan City and Berwick receiving the first boatload of jumbo shrimp fresh from the deepest waters ever fished by a small boat.
Z- Zydeco: Zydeco, Cajun, Country, Gospel and more. There is music for every taste at the Cajun Coast’s largest festival.