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HISTORY

(Note: Earlier history via written documentation is not available. Founding information and earlier history is from verbal accountings from those that participated.)

Cameron, Louisiana

The idea for the Louisiana Fur and Wildlife Festival in Cameron was originated in 1955 by the late Congressman T. A. Thompson who represented the area.

On a challenge from the Congressman in Cambridge, Maryland, Representative Thompson sent fifty-two year old Leon Hebert, a 25 year trapper, from Cameron to the National Outdoor Show to compete in the National Fur Skinning Contest. Mr. Hebert placed fifth in the nation that year. (Leon Hebert won the Louisiana title at the first annual Fur and Wildlife Festival on December 2-3, 1955 by skinning five muskrats in 53 3/5 seconds, nosing out John Broussard by five seconds.)

A small group of people met during the summer of 1955 in the old Police Jury meeting room in the Cameron Courthouse Building (where the Sheriff's tax office is now located), to make plans for the first festival. Whitney Stine was the chairman of the meeting and enthusiastically endorsed having the festival. Many community organizations were represented at this meeting. Those attending included: Whitney Stine - Cameron Lion's Club, Edward Swindell, Sr. - Cameron Lion's Club, Hadley Fontenot - County Agent, Alvin Dyson - State Representative, Ray Burleigh - Cameron Lion's Club, Joe O'Donnell -Cameron Lion's Club, Mrs. Iva Free - Home Demonstration Agent, Roberta Rogers - Home Demonstration Club, Geneva Griffith - Home Demonstration Club (retired from festival duties in January 2004, after 48 years of volunteer service) and Sam Tarlton - Lake Charles Television and Radio Station.

From this grassroots group of organizers came one of the oldest, most successful festivals, the Louisiana Fur & Wildlife Festival.

In spite of the bitter cold weather in December of 1955, and operating on a "shoestring" budget the festival was a huge success. Funding was provided by the Cameron Parish Police Jury and private donations.

J. B. Jones, Jr. served as master of ceremonies for the program which was the festival climax. The program was presided over by Hadley Fontenot, Festival President 1955.
Miss Vida Bess Brown, a seventeen year old beauty from Abbeville, was crowned "Miss Outdoor of Louisiana" by Ted O'Neal, Chief of the Fur and Bottoms Division of the Louisiana Wildlife Commission. She was presented with a nutria stole, a bouquet of roses by the Cameron Service Garage, and an expense paid trip to the National Outdoors Show in Cambridge, Maryland.

The Cambridge, Maryland National Outdoor Show became a "Sister Festival" with the Cameron Festival and the two exchanged fur skinners and festival queens each year. The tradition of exchanging festival representatives continues to the present time.

Miss Meredith Giles (Montie) was named "Cameron Parish Queen" and won the title from a field of 34 contestants. She was crowned by Hadley Fontenot.

Ted O'Neal told the audience (a Cameron Elementary full house) that night, that "Nutria skins are saving what would have been a vanishing fur industry for this area." He also pointed out that in the previous year Cameron Parish trappers netted $400,000.

Eleven year old J. A. Miller captured the Louisiana Junior Duck Calling contest that year. In years to come he grew to become the World Champion Fur Skinner, following in the footsteps of his father Fletcher, and teaching his daughter Selika the art with her becoming the Women's Champion. His wife, Mary Jane Miller, held the Local and National Women's title many times.

The second annual festival was held on January 11-12, 1957 and $5000.00 in cash and trips were awarded along with fur coats to the Fur Queen contestants.

Nancy Precht (Nunez) was crowned Fur Queen by Louisiana Representative Alvin Dyson. She represented the festival at the Mardi Gras Ball in Washington, D.C. where she was presented to Vice-President and Mrs. Nixon. This tradition continues to the present time. Her crown bearer was Lurchell Fontenot (Whittler) and her flower girl was Cheri Kay Griffith (Giblin).
In a report by visiting news media that year it stated, "Little in size, about 2500, Cameron likes to do things in a big way -- Fur fashion, shows, parades, water carnival, pirogue races, trap and trap shooting, duck calling, skinning, a parade and Miss Fur Queen contest, and the town was filled up, and estimated 7000 people."

The annual Fur Festival Parade was always a high point of the festival, always held at 2:00 P.M. on Saturday, starting from the west end and traveling through town to the east, on Highway La. 27-82. Each civic organization would spend days and many hours planning and making the beautiful floats and competing for the honor of winning in the various categories. They were usually constructed in the warehouses of the local menhaden plants, mud houses, garages, or anywhere workers could get out of the cold. Roland "Bolo" Trosclair was in charge of the parade at that time. A long line of civic minded citizens were to follow him over the years in charge of the parade including Deil LaLande, Roland Trosclair, Jr., Hayes "Pete" Picou, Jr., Oscar Reyes, II and Freddie Richard.

Fontonet continued to serve the festival as President until he was transferred from Cameron Parish in 1966. A concerted effort was made to find someone to assume the leadership position. J. B. Jones, Jr.agreed to take it with the condition that each phase and contest of the festival be taken over by various community members. Jones revamped the Board of Directors, bringing in people from all over the parish to help out and the festival grew even larger. He held the Presidential post until he chose to give it up in 1980. Braxton Blake was elected President. Mr. Blake held the office until 1988. Hayes "Pete" Picou, Jr., was elected as President, replacing Mr. Blake. Clifton Hebert was elected President, replacing Mr. Picou after he retired from the office. Mr. Hebert serves as President until the present.

Hadley Fontenot, J.B. Jones, and Braxton Blake, serve as President Emeritus for the festival.
A mascot for the festival was chosen. A contest of the area school children determined the name. The raccoon (mascot) was named Sha-oui and is a big hit for children each year.
The 39th festival chose Adrienne Picou as its 1995 Queen Fur XXVI. She was presented a fur coat (donated by the La. Fur and Alligator Council) by Joe Herring, Secretary of Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Hayes "Pete"Picou served as President. Billy Doxey served as King Fur XXVI representing the oyster industry. The 1995 Miss Cameron Parish was Jennifer Leigh Broadus representing the festival at the Outdoor Show in Cambridge, Maryland. The 1995 Little Miss Cameron Parish was Courtney Conner and Little Mr. Cameron Parish was Kaleb Trahan. Sarah Ann Vaughn was the Jr. Miss Fur Queen. Representative Randy Roach interview Miss Outdoors during the Saturday Night Program.

The 40th festival was held January 11-13, 1996 and honored the Mehaden Industry. It has had great impact on local and state economics.

The 41st La. Fur and Wildlife Festival honored the fur industry. A king was chosen from this industry. Michelle Trosclair from Grand Chenier served as the reigning Miss Cameron Parish and Marie DesOmeaux from Abbeville is the 1996 La. Fur Queen. The parade was at 12:00 noon and it started on the east end of Cameron. Hayes "Pete" Picou served as President.
The 42nd annual festival honored the cattle industry. A king was chosen from that industry. Hayes "Pete" Picou served as President. There was a carnival on the fairgrounds, food booths, dances, and outdoor events.

The 43rd annual festival honored the oil industry. A king was chosen from that industry. Hayes "Pete" Picou served as Past President. After giving up his post, Mr. Picou was replaced by Clifton Hebert as President. John LeBlanc replaced Eddie Benoit as Director of the fair grounds. There was a carnival on the fairgrounds, food booths, dances, and outdoor events.
The 44th annual festival honored the shrimp industry. A king was chosen from that industry. Clifton Hebert served as President. There was a carnival on the fairgrounds, food booths, dances, and outdoor events.

*The 45th annual festival, January 11-13, 2001, honored the rice industry. Mervin (Possum) Chesson was chosen from the rice industry and crowned king on Friday, January 12, 2001. Miss Courtney Tatman of St. Charles Parish was also crowned Fur Queen 2001. Shannon Surratt was crowned Miss Cameron 2001 on Thursday 11, 2001. The Executive Officers include Clifton Hebert, President; Freddie Richard, Vice-president; Sue Mhire, Secretary; and Stephanie Rodrigue, Treasurer. In addition to the Executive Officers, is a Board of Directors that governs festival decisions. A group of over 200 community volunteers work to see that the festival is a success. As is the past, a cookbook, featuring various local recipes and information/pictures from last year's festival will go on sale in January. Various pageants will choose royalty to represent the festival for the upcoming year. A carnival, parade, food booths, outdoor events, and dances will complete the package. Saturday, January 6, 2001 began the selection of festival royalty. Miss Deb Fur Queen is Christian McCall, Miss Teen Fur Queen is Cassandra Trahan, and Jr. Miss Fur Queen is Ashley Kelly.
*The 46th annual festival, January 10-12 2002 honored the duck hunting industry. Enos "Buster" Sturlese was chosen and crowned on Friday January 11, 2002. Shannon Hinton was crowned Fur Queen 2002. Miss Marlyn LeJeune was crowned Miss Cameron 2002 on Thursday January 10, 2002. The Executive Officers include Clifton Hebert, President: Freddie Richard, Vice President: Sue Mhire, Secretary; and Sandra Smith, Treasurer. Saturday January 4, 2002 began the festival with the crowning of Miss Deb Fur Queen, Erika Pickett; Miss Teen Fur Queen, Dixie Desonier; and Jr. Miss Fur Queen, Tara LeBlanc. On Thursday January 10, 2002, Kent Doxey was crowned LiL Mr Cameron and Jenna Duddleston was crowned LiL Miss Cameron.

*The 47th annual festival was held on January 9-11 2003 and honored the alligator industry. Charles Petifer was chosen and crowned as King Fur on Friday January 10th. Tiffany Wing from Calcasieu Parish was crowned La Fur Queen on Saturday January 11th. Trista Semien was also crowned on Friday night as Miss Cameron Parish 2003. Lil Miss Marlie Ellice Mudd, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lance Mudd of Grand Lake was crowned on Thursday night along with Lil Mr. Madison Jade Morales son of Mr. and Mrs. Chris Morales also of Grand Lake.
*The 48th, and most exciting of all festivals held, was one of nostalgia and advancement. The festival grounds were filled to capacity as crowds of festival goers enjoyed food, fun, and fur. The festival kicked off with the opening Thursday night program which yielded our newly crowned Lil' Mr. and Miss Cameron Parish, Tyler Nunez and Abby Miller, both representing South Cameron Elementary School. This year's King, Mr. Jimmy Stoutes, was selected as King Fur 2004 because of his unmatchable dedication to his lifelong career as an oyster fisherman. Selected as Fur Queen 2004 was Miss Trista Semien, representing Cameron Parish. And, Ashley Picou, a senior from Grand Lake High School, was crowned Miss Cameron Parish 2004 during the Friday night program. Mrs. Geneva Griffith was honored for years of service to not only the festival but Cameron Parish and its citizens.

*What sportsman could resist a weekend of competition - Cameron style? Trap shooting, retriever dog trials, duck and goose calling, nutria and muskrat skinning, and oyster shucking contests drew record numbers of participants and spectators alike. As the 49th Annual Louisiana Fur and Wildlife Festival kicked off on Thursday, January 6th, outdoor competitions were not the only thoughts lingering with festival goers. The festival has always been known for its lavish pageants. Royalty crowned during this year's festival were:

  • Little Mr & Miss Cameron Parish - Luke Miller and Callie Brevelle

  • Deb Miss Cameron - Jadah Primeaux

  • Teen Miss Cameron - Ericka Pickett

  • Junior Miss Cameron - Cami Savoie

  • Miss Cameron Parish - Ashley Kelly

  • 2005 Fur King - James "JA" Miller

  • 2005 Fur Queen - Cadi Brook Pedigo

The Executive Officers for 2005 include Johnny LeBlanc, President, Clifton Hebert, Vice President: Freddie Richard, Vice President: Stephanie Rogers, Secretary; and Sandra Smith, Treasurer.

*The 2006 celebration of the Fur and Wildlife Festival was cancelled due to the devastation of Hurricane Rita.

*The 50th annual Fur and Wildlife Festival had the feeling of an old time family reunion. It was held in Cameron on January 13th, 2007. After the devastation of Hurricane Rita, it was wonderful to gather in Cameron and celebrate the Fur Festival again. Participants enjoyed many of the same activities that had brought them out to the fair ground in past years. The newly crowned royalty reigned over the festival in grand style. The year’s festival representatives were:

  • Little Mr & Miss Cameron Parish – Coby Blake Benoit and Jacee Camille Miltenberger

  • Deb Miss Cameron – Morgan Hardie

  • Teen Miss Cameron – Kristin Broussard

  • Junior Miss Cameron – Misty Lesueour

  • Miss Cameron Parish – Haley Willis

  • 2005 Fur King –Rolland Primeaux

  • 2005 Fur Queen – Kayla Lavergne