The End of an Era

The Walker Pine Tree Festival is an annual celebration in the City of Walker that celebrates the “Pine Tree Capital of the World” and the community that surrounds the commodity. The festival announced that the celebration will not be happening this year and must cancel all associated events.

The festival has been a staple of Walker for countless years as a fundraising event for Walker High School, but the past four years the festival has grown into an official event in conjunction with the Louisiana Association of Fairs and Festivals.

“To say that the journey has been easy would be a total lie. We work tirelessly and spent countless hours away from our families in order to make this event possible for the community,” McMorris said.

The festival is ran by Chairman Haylie Dufour and McMorris as co-chairman, with the help of four other volunteers who serve on the executive voting board.

Dufour said, “It is incredibly difficult for only six of us to keep this event alive. We all eat, sleep, and breathe this festival, but sometimes our hard work simply isn’t enough. I think we are all recognizing this now.”

The festival was originally supposed to be held September 28-October 1 at the Sidney Hutchinson Park in Walker, but the festival board members announced that due to extenuating circumstances the festival would not be held.

Dufour said, “We had tremendous issues securing a midway for the festival because we are such a small event and attendance isn’t guaranteed. We also tried to have a few concerts lined up, but couldn’t raise enough money at our fundraisers to cover the costs.”

McMorris added that money and rides weren’t the only issues that the organization faced.

“We continuously faced scheduling difficulties,” McMorris said, “It is nearly impossible for us to hold any fundraiser or event where there isn’t horrible weather, lack of funds, or another local event prevents us from a solid attendance. It is very frustrating to see an event we are so passionate about and that could be so beneficial to the community fall flat.”

Through failed car shows,  jambalaya sales, and other fundraisers, the festival simply could not fund the event that they so desperately wanted to bring to the Walker community.

In addition to the cancellation of the festival, the Walker Pine Tree Festival Pageant was also forced to be cancelled. The funds that are gained from the hosting of the festival is put right back into events to prepare for the next festival.

Queen Shelby during her reign as the 2017 Walker Pine Tree Festival Queen. Photo provided by Stacy McMorris.

McMorris said, “The pageant is our money maker. We always have such a great response for the pageant, but without a festival we simply cannot manage to host this wonderful event.”

The reigning 2017 Miss Pine Tree Festival Queen Shelby Johnson is now faced with her reign simply ending rather than crowning her new successor like she would have on November 12.

“It breaks my heart to see such a wonderful event come to an end, but I am forever grateful for the experiences I gained throughout my travels across the state this year and the relationships that I made with my festival board. They are truly amazing and worked tirelessly to bring this event to the community every year. I hope that we can rebuild and come back in the near future,” Johnson said.

The festival board is currently filing for a deferment with the Louisiana Association of Fairs and Festivals organization in order to still remain as active members of the organization and to hopefully rebuild and come back to the City of Walker next year.

The deferment would also allow for Johnson to still compete at the Louisiana Association of Fairs and Festivals Queen of Queens Pageant as planned February 22-25, 2018 in Baton Rouge.

“I hope that with the resources given to us by the Louisiana Association of Fairs and Festivals and the overwhelming support we have received from the community that we can come back in the next year or so as a thriving, prospering festival and can be an even Walker will be proud of,” Dufour said.

McMorris aims to continue posting and updating from the official Walker Pine Tree Festival page on Facebook, so anyone throughout the parish who is still interested in the event can follow the progress of the rebuilding stages in the months to come.

The festival would like to extend its gratitude to the government officials in the City of Walker and those of volunteer for the continued support through the festival’s journey.

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