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Monday, June 18, 2018

Celebrating a Growing Tradition

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Ruston to Become ‘Peachy Paradise’ for 68th Annual Louisiana Peach Festival

When the summer season rolls around, there is one fruit that grows in the hearts and minds of the people of Ruston. From peach cobbler to the local favorite peach ice cream, Ruston just can’t get enough of this sweet, handpicked treasure. That’s why every year they celebrate the Louisiana Peach Festival. This year will mark the 68th annual festival held from June 22- 23. Festival events will take place in various locations around Ruston.

Cathi Cox-Boniol, immediate past chair of the Ruston-Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, says she remembers going to the Peach Festival in Ruston as a child. It is a tradition that she looks forward to each year, which is why she and her husband enjoy volunteering their time to help with the event.

“The Peach Festival is a part of my DNA. When peach season comes around, it’s all hands on deck. I’m just a homegrown peach festival girl.”

While the festival is sponsored by the Ruston-Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, they also get help from Gumbeaux Productions in Shreveport to make sure things run smoothly. Cox-Boniol also credits the volunteers for all of their support.

“We mostly rely on volunteers,” she said. “That’s why people are so invested in it because they kind of run it. People that have done it for years might decide to give it to someone else. We have the folks that kind of steer it at the Chamber, but the boots on the ground are the volunteers and the community sponsors.”

This year’s festival will feature a battle of the bands event called “Louisiana Peachstock.” It is scheduled for June 23 from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. During this event, five bands will compete for the grand prize of $1,000. The lineup includes a wide variety of genres including country, rock, funk, R&B, jazz and soul.

“I am pumped about Peachstock,” Cox-Boniol said. “Live music just really makes a festival to me.”

Another fun event is the “Cobbler Gobbler” eating contest. Ten contestants will set out to prove who can eat peach cobbler the fastest. Hampton Inn will sponsor the event. Not only will the winner receive an official Cobbler Eating Championship Belt, but they’ll also get $1,000.

“We have people flying in from all over the United States for this contest. There is a $1,000 cash prize, so we try to get the word out. We try to appeal to a diverse group of folks.”

The Peach Festival is a great way to celebrate this farming community’s history with family-friendly activities that everyone can enjoy. The festival first originated as a way to celebrate their fruitful crops of peaches. Now it has become a tradition that people love.

“It celebrates peach crops, and it’s a family-friendly event that not only caters to visitors of the area, but also to our citizens as well. People talk about it all year until it comes back again. It has always been that way.”

As someone who has lived in Ruston since she was young, Cox-Boniol has seen the festival grow in size. She says she is absolutely overwhelmed with how big the event has gotten. It is something that has become a staple in Ruston.

“Every community is known for something. In Ruston we have Louisiana Tech University and peaches. It’s a part of who we are. When you drive down our streets, you see the peaches on our street signs. No disrespect to Georgia, but our peaches really are the best. They are so sweet.”

“Peachy Paradise” is the theme that was voted on for this year’s festival. Cox-Boniol came up with it herself. She loves that they are able to use Facebook for people to submit and vote on theme ideas. It’s also a great way for citizens to provide feedback.

“We’ve started utilizing Facebook, and that drives a lot of people our way,” she said. “They feel like they have a voice in what is going on. They let us know when they don’t like something.”

In addition to using social media, the festival has decided to update the technology they use. Cox-Boniol says Ruston is always looking to grow.

“We have ATM’s out there – I never thought I’d see the day. This year we have a phonecharging station. While there are many things about our community that are the same there are many things that are different. We want to maintain that rich heritage, but we also want to partner it with a progressive forwardthinking that allows us to grow.”

Overall, she hopes that everyone can make it out to Ruston for delicious food, family fun and a generous helping of peach ice cream.

“I hope they have a blast and they leave saying, ‘best day ever!’ I want them to see what is available here and how beautiful it is here. We hope they come back. If people have a good time and they want to come back, then we’ve done our job.”

For ticket info and festival event listings with locations, visit www.louisianapeachfestival. org.

– Jessica Carr


The Forum News