Contraband Days is a festival celebrating Jean Lafitte and his hidden treasures in Southwest Louisiana. This year will be the 54th Annual Festival since its inception.The festival starts on April 26th and will continue through Sunday, May 8th. There will be many unique events that you can only experience at Contraband Days, including the Live Shark Encounter, Rhino Renovators Bike Race, Boat Parade, Volleyball Classic, American Press 5k, and the Kid's Costume Contest just to name a few.
WHAT IS CONTRABAND DAYS?
Contraband Days is one of Louisiana's largest festivals and the City of Lake Charles oldest festival and is celebrating its 52nd year in 2009. Contraband Days is a themed "pirate" festival with close to 100 events. Contraband Days always falls on the first two weekends in May and it's a twelve day festival. The Festival is based on the Lake Charles Civic Center grounds with some events occurring throughout the City. Over 100,000 people attend Contraband Days Festival on land and on the water.
HISTORIC LEGEND of CONTRABAND DAYS
Almost three centuries ago, a notorious and ruthless pirate named "Jean Lafitte" and his band of buccaneers were fleeing enemy ships and heading west to Galveston. Legend has it that Lafitte & his band of buccaneers would hide out along the waterways in Lake Charles. Legend has it that Jean Lafitte's favorite hideout was Contraband Bayou in Lake Charles. Legend has it that the treasure (silver & gold) was hidden and buried by Lafitte in his favorite hideaway Contraband Bayou and hence given why the bayou is named Contraband.
HOW CONTRABAND DAYS BEGAN
In 1957 a group of local businessmen from the Downtown Division of the Lake Charles Association of Commerce (later known as the Chamber of Commerce) formed Lake Charles Contraband Days Inc. (later known as Contraband Days Inc.) for the sole purpose of developing a program to utilize the Lake Charles areas in recreational and cultural activities and to attract tourists. The group opted for a pirate theme with the LEGEND of Lafitte's Buried Treasure along Contraband Bayou thus the first Annual Contraband Days was held in June 1958 as a one day event with a boat parade, water ski show and boat races. A few years later this group of men formed another
organization called the Buccaneers of Lake Charles, Inc and added entertainment by dressing in pirate attire and costume. A "Jean Lafitte" would be selected to lead the buccaneers to "Capture the Mayor and take over the City". Part of the buccaneer group would also dress in "City Militia" attire, armed with real cannons to try to ward off Lafitte & his buccaneers from landing as part of the entertainment.
The Buccaneers of Lake Charles is the primary part of the festivals "pirate themed" entertainment, begins and ends the festivities, and promotes the festival year round.
Contraband Days Inc. is the organization that plans, organizes, and budgets for the festivals events Forty eight years later Contraband Days has grown from a one day to a twelve day festival with close to 100 events
WHO BENEFITS FROM CONTRABAND DAYS?
Contraband Days Festival grew over the years as a scheduler of many types of events, contests, and attractions. Charitable organizations were and still are encouraged to host an event during Contraband Days. Charitable organizations, schools, and churches host events, contests, booths, etc during Contraband Days and some have been involved for many years.
Contraband Days is not only a festival to promote tourism and to provide entertainment, it also helps many charitable organizations raise funds for their causes.
For these organizations, this is their MAJOR FUNDRAISER FOR THE YEAR which makes Contraband Days Festival VERY IMPORTANT to these organizations !!!! There are at least 20 local charitable organizations that benefit by having an event during Contraband Days each year.
ECONOMIC IMPACT IN THE COMMUNITY
In 1998 & 1999 Contraband Days enlisted McNeese State University to collect festival attendee Data and the results of that data revealed an average spends $16 -21 per day on the grounds and a total of 1.7 million dollars was spent directly on the festival grounds not counting the costs spent off the grounds as to food & beverage, lodging, shopping, etc.
CONTRABAND DAYS RECOGNITION AND AWARDS
Contraband Days receives many awards and recognition each year from a national level to local.
Contraband Days was selected and featured on the All American Festivals segment of the Television Food Network and was featured in Hot Boat Magazine. Contraband Days won again the ABA Top 100 Events in North America and this the 3rd time in the seven years Contraband Days has received this award. Contraband Days has also been featured in many top festival websites, magazines, and publications nationally each year.
|A Pirate in the making|
Contraband Days receives Regional recognition as it has been selected "Festival of the Year" by La. Assn of Fairs & Festivals the past three years and receives numerous marketing awards by the Association as well. Also has been featured in Louisiana Life, Southern Living, Acadiana Profile, and many regional tourism guides and magazines as a must see festival destination
Local recognition Tourism Partner of the Year SWLA Convention & Visitors Bureau --May 2004 and has received many local awards as "Voted Best Festival" by Times of SWLA --- June 2004
Contraband Days Events
Contraband Days provides entertainment for all ages, heritage, and religion. Contraband Days began the first noted in festival history "Family Night" and is an alcohol free night for families with family entertainment. Concerts ranging from Christian and Gospel, to Country and Cajun, to Zydeco, Urban|R & B acts, Oldies, & Classic Rock are a big part of the festival entertainment. Entertainers from nationally, to regional and local are known to have performed at the festival.