Sunshine Festival kicks off today

Leslie D. Rose @DvilleNewsie

It may be happening a little later in the year than normal, but it's happening. Beginning Nov. 17, Donaldsonville's flagship festival will take place at the Fairgrounds and Pavilion. This year, making things even more exciting for festival-goers is the accompanying Avenue Evening Stroll that will resume on its annual Saturday before Thanksgiving - Nov. 19.

"Two events - one great weekend," boasts Lee Melancon, Executive Director - Donaldsonville Downtown Development District. "We are very happy to have both the Sunshine Festival and the Stroll on the same weekend. These events bring visitors to our city and most importantly provide needed economic infusion to Donaldsonville."

Melancon said a goal is to have more events operate jointly in the future.

"We believe that bringing our community organizations together also brings our community together. And when we work together we will create new opportunities for our city and our citizens."

The Sunshine Festival will have a carnival set up beginning at 6 p.m. on opening night. The pageant to crown the 2017 Little Miss, Teen Miss, and Miss Sunshine by reigning Queen Ashley Victoria Barbier will take place on Nov. 18 at 7 p.m. at the Lemann Memorial Donaldsonville Community Center.

Co-coordinating this year's pageant is former Donaldsonville queen, Donna Latino Barbier, who is also Ashley's mother.

"We were happy they were bring back the pageant since we made a big deal of it," Latino-Barbier said.

While it had initially been planned that Ashley would reign over this year's festival, the implementation of the 2017 pageant will see a new queen crowned instead. Barbier is still pleased to have served her hometown.

It was such an honor to be able to give back to the town that has given so much to me," Barbier said. "Being able to represent the Sunshine Festival has always been a dream of mine and for it to become a reality has been such a blessing!

My advice to the contestants would be to represent the best version of themselves when competing for this title. You will be representing Donaldsonville, but you will also be advocating for yourself. At the end of the day, if you don’t walk away with the crown, you have the opportunity to walk away with friends and lifelong memories, so make the absolute best of it!"

As for the Avenue Evening Stroll portion of the upcoming weekend festivities, Melancon encourages families to rev up the holidays in Donaldsonville.

"Come and enjoy our unique culture and share in the kickoff to the holiday shopping season at the stroll, listen to the live sounds of Kenny Fife featuring Van Broussard st Donaldsonville Glass and Body, enjoy Gospel and Gumbo and meet the legendary File Man, Lionel Key at the River Road African American Museum, and enjoy the beautiful fall weather on the midway at the sunshine festival at the fairgrounds," Melancon said.

Organizers have worked tirelessly to ensure that there is something for everyone from gospel choirs, local high school bands, local artists, writers, crafters to an appearance by Santa Claus and the Donaldsonville Fire Department.