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Wooden Boat Festival draws huge crowds to Madisonville

Photo provided by staff.
Sunday, October 13, 2013 - 8:00pm

Thousands of boat lovers from across South Louisiana hit the water and walked the shores of the Tchefuncte River for the 24th annual Wooden Boat Festival in Madisonville. Captains of all types of vessels setup shop on the banks of the river Saturday and Sunday, but it was the wooden boats that caught the crowd's eye.

"Most of them are curious to know if there is any fiberglass on it," Joe Thibodeaux, boat builder and captain, said. "Is it really wood? it doesn't look like wood. It looks like plastic."

Thibodeaux and his wife spent two years making this boat to show off at the fest.

"It's completely wood. There is no glass or fiberglass," Thibodeaux stated.

He says the boat helps him connect to the cajun traditions.

"This boat has just been upgraded from it. We put varnish on it. We painted it up real well. It started off as a cultural work boat for the cajuns in Louisiana," Thibodeaux described.

"It's a lost Louisiana art," Cliff Siverd, wooden boat owner, agreed.

The traditions of wooden boat building are kept alive by groups teaching kids how to make toy boats at the fest. Plus adults can opt to compete in a special build a boat cometition called the Quick 'n' Dirty Boat Building Contest and race around the river. While not all the boats end up floating, fest goers say it's still fun to watch.

" Well it has to be your thing, so if you love boats and the water then boat fest, " Siverd said.

Thibodeaux says the best part of the fest is still talking and sharing his love of wooden boats.

"This festival is so special, because it is about wooden boats. People are very very interested in looking at the old stuff. You don't see the old stuff anymore," Thibodeaux said.

"Wood boats are warm. Steel boats plastic boats are cold they're man made," Siverd described. "This is nature wood is nature. The wooden boats are our tradition."

The proceeds of the festival go to help run the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum and Research Center.

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