The History of the Orange Festival
In 1947, the first “Plaquemines Parish Orange Festival” was formed to promote cultivation and marketing of Plaquemines’ citrus crop. A stunning freeze in 1951 nearly crushed the organization in its infancy. To preserve the good work that had been accomplished up to that time, the focus of the organization was enlarged to include all the bounty of the Parish. In 1955, the Orange Festival was renamed the “Plaquemines Parish Fair & Orange Festival.”
In the winters of 1962 and 1963, record-breaking freezes struck again. These freezes, accompanied by snow, were more devastating than the 1951 freeze and resulted in a complete destruction of the orange industry, which had produced three to four million dollars annually. The annual celebrations were canceled in 1962.
Despite the freezes, the orange growers courageously proceeded to replace dead trees with new groves. Through the combined efforts of citrus growers and government officials, rootstock was given to the growers who agreed to match the amount given to them. By 1965, the citrus industry was on the way to recovery and people were again talking about a Plaquemines Parish Fair and Orange Festival.
But, on September 9, 1965, just when a full recovery was imminent, Hurricane Betsy inflicted severe devastation upon the major citrus producing areas of the parish. The prosperity of the Parish was stunned and resumption of the Fair and Orange Festival was again postponed.
Another citrus replacement program was sponsored by the local government. However, before productions could reach commercial quantities, Hurricane Camille ravished the orange producing areas with a force greater than that of Betsy.
Camille destroyed the heart of the orange industry in the Parish and moved it to the west bank areas north of Empire and to the east bank. The groves in these areas were not as severely damaged and achieved commercial production after 1969. Again, with another citrus replacement program, the orange industry was encouraged to replant. The festivals have continued uninterrupted since then.
The renewed celebrations were received enthusiastically, both locally and from afar.
Freezes again crippled the industry in 1982, 1983, 1985 and 1989. But the Fair and Festival was not canceled. It has continued to focus on the bounty of Plaquemines Parish and its main attraction – the citrus industry.
With the great destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, organizers staged the event at the Medal of Honor Park in Belle Chasse. We were very excited to return home to Fort Jackson in 2010.