This is where it all takes place on the grounds of the beautiful pavilion in Ville Platte. Organizers say the large outdoor venue and landscape definitely influence high attendance. Held every October, the festival typically begins on Tuesday and lasts until Sunday.
It features some of the best in local cuisine, crafts and music. Activities include a colorful parade with floats, visiting queens, marching bands and of course a queen and king to reign over the festivities. The list of kings is quite impressive with past royalty including former Gov. Edwin Edwards, Senator J. Bennett Johnston and Congressman John Breaux just to name a few.
Equally impressive? This festival’s staying power. Also included in that list of past royalty, Passe Partout personality and KLFY News 10’s own Bob Moore who served as king in 2000. Now this year’s festival is set for October 7th through the 12th. The annual Le Tournoi runs on the last day of the festival following the parade. “Le Tournoi”, which means tournament in French, is the ancient sporting event of jousting. It was first followed by the knights of France.
Major Marcellin Garand, an officer in Napoleon’s army, founder and first mayor of Ville Platte, brought Le Tournoi to Louisiana. Le Tournoi was introduced in the early 1800’s and ran until the late 1880’s when it was then abandoned for unknown reasons. Judge J.D. Buller is accredited with reviving Le Tournoi along with a group of patriotic WWII veterans in 1948. For the first few years of its rebirth, Le Tournoi was run as part of the fourth of July festivities.
When the Louisiana Cotton Festival came into existence in 1953, it was dropped as a fourth of July festivity and began to run in conjunction with the Louisiana Cotton Festival instead. In 1959, the Louisiana Tournoi Association was chartered and states that a Tournoi can take place anywhere, but the championship must take place in Ville Platte each year. Le Tournoi requires horsemanship, skill, and accuracy.
The knights wear their traditional garb while riding horseback at neck breaking speeds around a semicircular quarter mile track. Carrying long slender lances, the daring knight attempts to spear and retain all seven of the small rings that are suspended on posts around the track.
The seven rings symbolize the seven enemies of cotton which are flood, drought, boll weevil, bollworm, silk, rayon and nylon. The knights run three heats each to decide the new champion.