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Mark Lowry and 2018 Grammy Winner Rhonda Vincent to Headline Franklin Parish Catfish Festival
Singer, songwriter and humorist Mark Lowry and recent Grammy Winner Rhonda Vincent will headline an outstanding lineup of entertainment at the 32nd Annual Franklin Parish Catfish Festival scheduled for Saturday, April 14, in historic downtown Winnsboro.
“Mark spent more than 20 collective years as the baritone singer for the Grammy-award-winning Gaither Vocal Band,” said festival entertainment coordinator Nathan Roberts. “He also served as the comedic sidekick for Bill Gaither through live concert tours and the best-selling Gaither Homecoming video series and television airings.”
“He was here last year and brought the house down,” Roberts added. “We’re fortunate to get him back again this year, and he’ll perform at 12:30 on the Old Glory Stage.”
Vincent, who with her group known as “Rhonda Vincent and The Rage”, won a Grammy award earlier this year for the Best Bluegrass Album of the Year for “All the Rage – In Concert Volume One (LIVE).” She and The Rage will perform at 3:30 on the Old Glory Stage.
“Rhonda is another in a pretty long list of Grammy winners we’ve had at the festival,” Roberts said. “We’ve got something for everyone again this year, and are pleased to have lined up a very diverse lineup of musicians who will bring a unique flavor to this year’s festival.”
But there’s more to this year’s event than just music said festival director Paul Price Jr.
“The festival has become one of the largest one day events in the state,” Price said. “The festival board works hard to be sure that this remains a family-friendly event, and that folks can come to Winnsboro and enjoy the day in a great atmosphere.”
This year, two separate acts for the younger folks are scheduled, including the return of the wildly-popular princesses behind the Old Post Office Museum. The Petite Princess Company of Baton Rouge will bring four of its most highly booked and beloved princesses in the past year; the Snow Queen, the Ice Princes, the Island Princess and Beauty. The princesses will conduct meet and greets throughout the day with festival guests as well as perform several of their character’s favorite songs.
The company was voted “Best Children’s Entertainment Company” in the greater Baton Rouge area by Parents Magazine for 2016 and 2017.
This year, the music stage at Gill First National Funeral Home has been revamped to feature Lee Andrews, who will conduct shows throughout the day for the younger folks. Performing as “Lew-E”, Lee is one of the most sought after entertainers in the Southeast, and will feature a high energy production including juggling, illusions, comedy and audience participation, which children of all ages can enjoy.
Also appearing this year are the Six String Soldiers, a four-person acoustic group from the United States Army Field Band performing Americana, folk, bluegrass and Irish music. This group was scheduled to appear last year, but an unusual early spring snow storm in the Northeast forced their cancellation.
Featured this year on the Council Stage will be the music of The Main Event R&B Band, Donnell Sullivan, and “Big Al” Cherry, along with Mike McKenzie, Scotty Temple and Southbound Train and Baylee Sullivan.
“On the Corner” by Kathy Morris Realty will feature members of the FPHS Jazz Group and Drumline, and A. J. Gaither, along with Borderline Bluegrass. Miss Lindsey’s School of Dance is also set to perform behind the Old Post Office Museum at 11 a.m.
A full entertainment schedule can be found at the festival website here.
The daylong event features some 300 vendor booths, along with plenty of fresh pond-raised fried catfish for the thousands that annually attend the festival. Admission to the festival, which runs from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., is only $5 per person. Festival seating and lawn chairs are allowed at the stages, but no ice chests will be permitted.
Other festival highlights will include a huge antique car show that should take up much of Highway 15, a flower show set for the Princess Room, and a large area of inflatables for the younger, more energetic set just east of the Council on Aging building.
The Old Post Office Museum will also feature an exhibit featuring the Art of Walter Anderson, combined with “Water and Wildlife”, an exhibit of Franklin Parish student art coordinated by teacher Mary Marr Nelson.
And, as usual, Lifeshare Blood Centers will hold their annual blood drive at the base of the big flag on Highway 15.
Four fish frying booths should serve in excess of 4,000 pounds of some of the best fried catfish and trimmings that Franklin Parish has to offer. Local groups frying fish include the Winnsboro First United Methodist Church Youth, Life Church, and River of Life Church, along with festival fish supplier, Haring Catfish of Wisner.
The major sponsor of this year’s festival is the Franklin Parish Tourism Commission. Franklin State Bank will be the lead sponsor on the “Old Glory Stage” this year, and Entergy will be the main sponsor for the stage at the Council on Aging Building.
Other corporate sponsors include the Franklin Parish Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Kevin Cobb, Franklin Medical Center, Louisiana Land Bank, Citizens Progressive Bank, Progressive Bank, and Winnsboro State Bank.
“We simply couldn’t have the festival without our sponsors,” Price said. “They have been faithful with their assistance for many years, and we really appreciate and recognize it.”
Price also noted the assistance and cooperation that the festival gets each year from the City of Winnsboro. “There is no problem too big for the city crew to solve, and we really appreciate the cooperation we receive from city hall,’ he said. “This is a great event for the city and parish, and we are proud to be able to put it on each year.”
Proceeds from the festival are put back into the community and are used for various projects throughout Franklin Parish during the year, including a sizable donation to the upcoming Franklin Parish Academic Achievement Banquet.
Complete and up-to-the-minute festival details, along with entertainment schedules, antique car show forms, and a festival map will be available here on the festival website, as well as via social media.