Cross Lake Floatilla
Popular outdoor party celebrates its 30th year
It began as an opportunity for Cross Lake neighbors to get together, enjoy the company, the water and the weather.
Since those humble beginnings, it has grown into an annual lake-wide event that attracts visitors from all over the region to see the boats, hear the music, enjoy the food and drink, and celebrate another aspect of living in Shreveport Bossier City.
On June 19, The will celebrate its official 30th year starting at 11 a.m., and the headquarters this year will be the American Legion Lowe McFarlane Post at 5315 South Lakeshore Drive on the lake. According to Floatilla spokeswoman Kim French, the event is held on the Saturday before Father’s Day each year. “It got bigger and bigger every year. It used to just be a party on the lake. It’s evolved over these years into a more family-oriented event.”
The 2020 Floatilla was one of the few recurring events that avoided cancellation due to coronavirus, but French said it’s held outside, and people are on boats, so social distancing was not an issue. “Everybody had been cooped up since February, and it just ended up being a good time.”
One of the attractions is the fireworks show that happens when the skies turn dark enough. “That’s one of the big things that everyone looks forward to, [the] big fireworks show. Pyromania Fireworks [in Benton] always presents for us.”
Also on the card for the Floatilla are a decorated boat parade and a Boat Poker Run. For the uninitiated, participants buy poker tickets. They then must go to seven designated locations via boat before the 2 p.m. deadline to get their cards and return to the judging area to find out if they were able to buy the proper cards to assure a winning hand.
According to French, another favorite is the inflatables race, in which contestants race on an inflatable water toy. She said last year, “[we] had one [contestant] on a big horse, [another on] a camel. People trying to stay on top of those and race was pretty funny.”
Proceeds from the Floatilla go to local charities, French explained. “Our charities don’t get a lot of federal dollars, and they’re in this community, too. Our theme this year is The Heartbeat of Cross Lake,” said French. “One, because it’s been running so long; two, because of the kids that we’re saving.”
She said their largest beneficiary is the Heart of Hope. “It’s out in Keithville at the old Grawood School. They have revamped that into a home for young girls. Some of them get kicked out of their homes when they get pregnant if they don’t get an abortion, and they don’t want an abortion. Some of them go there because their families can’t handle them or don’t know how to help them. This place takes them in, and they live there. They take them to their doctor’s appointments. They have inhouse learning with teachers who come in and teach every day. They’re able to finish their education, get their GED.”
According to Jodi Burns, executive director of Heart of Hope, the support and encouragement of the Floatilla donations helped sustain the home through the pandemic. They served 10 new young mothers. She added that in the past five years, “[the] Cross Lake Floatilla charity event has raised more than $22,800 to Heart of Hope. The impact your support has made just in this past year translated to help provide 611 nights of safe housing (10 moms and newborns), over 535 hours of professional counseling and life skill classes including: prenatal care, self-care, parenting, newborn care, anger management, nutrition and meal planning, and continuing middle and high school in our onsite classroom. Your support has helped women graduated high school and become EMTs, managers, college students and good moms.”
Some of the proceeds also go to the American Legion, which has been a long-term sponsor of the Floatilla. They also raise money for Woody’s Home for Veterans and four separate VFW posts in the area. “The way we help Woody’s,” said French, “is they always send us a list of [items] they need.” Then the Floatilla purchases the items and delivers them to the home. “It takes a little bit of extra work, but it’s worth it. And it’s so sweet seeing the community helping them.”
The event usually featured one or two special musical events, but this year Cumulus Radio will be broadcasting live from the American Legion Post all day on two different stations.
French stressed that “land people” are encouraged to come out, too, not just boating enthusiasts.
“A lot of people just come out to the Legion, you know, to see the boats. You don’t have to have a boat. We have a lot of people who come by land, especially for the fireworks. It’s all day long; you can come and go if you want to. You can come anytime and stay as long as you want.”
Everything is free except some parking areas and the food at the post; otherwise, it’s a day of sun, water and companionship for several charitable causes.