History of the Erath 4th of July Celebration
Erath started celebrating the Erath 4th of July Celebration in 1936. The festial was founded by Roy R. Theriot and originated as a fundraiser for Erath High School. In 1937, the New Orleans Times Picayune newspaper published an article about the Erath Independence Day Fete. The article stated that the event was sponsored jointly by the Erath 4th of July Association and the Erath High School Alumni Association. Roy Theriot was the general manager of the celebration, and all money earned benefited Erath High School. (A 1938 article was also published). A June 11, 1939 New Orleans Times Picayune article announced that Edward Landry had been named general chairman of the Erath 4th of July Celebration. The celebration was described as one of Louisiana’s major Fourth of July Celebrations, and included a street fair, parade, speakers, and a dance at the Erath High School Auditorium.
The celebration continued during World War II under the direction of Edward Landry and the Erath Lions Club. In 1946, returing veteran Roy Theriot began serving as the President and and Curney Dronet as the Parade Chairman. Theriot and Dronet worked in conjunction with the Erath Lions Club and the Erath American Legion to plan the festival.
Throughout the late 1940’s and 1950’s, the festival was run by the area merchants as a way to promote Erath, and thereby bring more business to Erath. The Erath merchants would contribute money each year to stage the festival. Several Erath residents that were instrumental in the early success of the festival included: B.J. Gary, Marion Boudreaux, Johnny Suire, Edward Suire, K.A. Bolner, J.P. Landry, Leo Bernard, Sulie Dubois, Emmett Bares, J.D. Vincent, Inez LeBlanc Vincent, Neuby LeBlanc, Fred Dugas, Wilton "Belu" Sonnier, Lee Bernard, and Curney Dronet.
In the early 1962, Dr. Leroy Suire and his wife, Elvie, along with Richard Dubois, Wilton "Belu" Sonnier, and Eddie Shiner took over the operation of the festival. John Earl LeBlanc was elected President around 1964, and served for several years. Les Travailleuses took over the organization of the Erath 4th of July Celebration in 1972. This local women’s organization ran the festival until 1975.
Two people that played an integral part in the Erath 4th of July Celebration throughout the years were Richard Dubois and Relie LeBlanc. Both men were involved in the organization, off and on, since the 1950’s. One of the events that the two men used to stage on the day of July 4th was the go kart races. South Broadway Street was closed the morning of the 4th, and all telephone poles and fire hydrants were covered with hay to protect the participants. Go kart races were then held up and down Broadway Street. Later on that day, the area fire departments would participate in the waterfights. For many years, the special contests were held following the waterfights. These contest included the watermelon and cracker eating contest, which are still held along with the potato relays, and the greasy pole contest, which is no longer held.
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