Ronnie Boudreaux of New Iberia was hot and bothered around mid-afternoon Thursday, so many hours into a period without electricity thanks to damage left behind by the dearly departed Hurricane Isaac.
The 70-year-old Knights of Columbus member was cool about talking about one of the loves of his life, though, and it seemed to refresh him as he sat under his carport near two tables covered with brochures from each and every Kay-Cee Saltwater Fishing Rodeo. At this time of year, Boudreaux is in full fishing rodeo mode.
The past fishing rodeo chairman and veteran weighmaster, who got his start as the “snowball chairman” in 1964, the year before he married D’Ella Simon, is out at the fishing rodeo site today manning headquarters under the pavilion along Quintana Canal at Cypremort Point. He will be in his element, no doubt about it.
Since Boudreaux was 16 in 1959, the first year of the fishing rodeo, he has been involved with each holiday weekend event. He is one of the many men and women — and many of their children — who have given up their holidays over the past five-plus decades because of their loyalty to the community and to the Kay-Cees, which he joined at age 18.
“I don’t have no regrets. There’s nothing I’d rather do. Labor Day Weekend is the Kay-Cee rodeo,” Boudreaux said as he used a towel to sop the perspiration on his forehead. He’ll probably do that a lot this weekend, which promises to bring post-storm heat and humidity to the Teche Area.
Boudreaux, a retired Bellsouth supervisor, echoed the sentiments of D’Ella Boudreaux, who has been with her husband every step of the way around fishing rodeo headquarters since 1965.
“Really, we really enjoy it, (especially) back then when we had a lot of people come by and visit,” she said, stealing a sidelong glance at him before speaking.
D’Ella Boudreaux was talking mostly about the first four decades, when the three-day holiday weekend event was in its prime and 50-100 boats would show up to weigh fish at fishing rodeo headquarters, which has moved several times before finding its current resting spot. Participation has dipped, they agreed, as much as 50 percent for various reasons in the past 10 or so years.
The Boudreauxs looked admiringly at the collection of colorful fishing rodeo brochures on the tables. Each one has a story to tell, he said.
Wayne Hollier, 54, of New Iberia, appreciated the collection. The K of C No. 3425 member has been involved with the fishing rodeo 12 years, four of them as chairman.
“That’s great. I never saw all those covers,” Hollier said while visiting Boudreaux to make a decision on the fate of this weekend’s event post-Isaac. “It was amazing to see from Day 1 — how small and thin the pamphlet was — to present day — 60-something pages and full size.”
Hollier, service manager and purchasing agent for Parkway Services Group, an oilfield-related company, said K of C No. 3425 has about half that many brochures and many are framed and displayed at the Kay-Cee Hall on L. Theriot Road. He was amazed at the collection.
“It’s almost like a baseball collection ... for him to keep those 53 years, you know, having all those for that long a time. He did a good job keeping them and preserving them,” he said.
Hollier said the brochures also are a tribute to “his (Boudreaux’s) wife and the many wives who have been a part of it. They seem to enjoy it as much as we do.”
Boudreaux, understandably, is proud of his collection of brochures. The late Claude Boudreaux, his father who died in 1992, and the late Carl Landry, who died in 2008, were avid collectors of the brochures, too, he said. Both men also had complete or near-complete sets until the year they died.
Landry, chairman of four holiday weekend events, including the inaugural one, is regarded as the “father of the fishing rodeo,” Boudreaux said.
“Yeah, daddy was missing only one,” Bonnie Landry Palumbo of New Iberia said about Landry’s brochure collection. “I want to say, for some reason, I think it was for (fishing rodeo chairman) L.J. Norris’ 13th rodeo. It was unlucky.”
That fishing rodeo started and was called off by a hurricane, she said, just like last year’s event was canceled by approaching Tropical Storm Lee.
Palumbo, 60-year-old office manager at Iberia Rental, where she has worked 40 years, gave her father’s collection to Boudreaux, who said he has it safely stored in a plastic bag.
She said about her father, “He took so much pride in saving things. After he passed, I couldn’t see just letting them go. My father ... that (fishing rodeo) was his life besides his family. He totally lived for the rodeos.”
Landry, former postmaster of New Iberia, especially enjoyed the early events when there was so much to do for the women and children, those who stayed ashore while the guys went fishing, she said. Bingo, fish booths and other games were popular for so many years, she said.
“His best times were at the beginning when it really was for the family,” she said.
Boudreaux and Palumbo both recalled how much he loved to cook, something he did days before each fishing rodeo in order to feed the volunteers, sometimes three dozen or more people, who stayed out there three or more days to put it on. Spaghetti and fish courtbouillion were two of his and everyone else’s favorites, they said.
“We had some good time, oh, yeah,” Boudreaux said.
“Carl would start cooking the Monday before the rodeo. He’d have stuff stacked in the freezer, enough for all of us for four days,” he said. “Carl and I would leave the Friday morning (before Saturday’s start of the fishing rodeo) and go to Franklin Cigar and Tobacco Co. and pick up the beer truck and all the prizes. We used to give prizes rather than trophies.”
All that was outlined in the fishing rodeo brochures on the tables.
Boudreaux, the fishing rodeo’s chairman on the 15th, 50th and 51st years and weighmasters for more years than he can recall, eyed the collection of brochures fondly. He had gotten them out for a photo opportunity and wasn’t in a hurry to put them away.
“That’s all going back to a special place in my office, all in numerical order,” he said.
And with that, he began getting ready for the next fishing rodeo, with yet another brochure behind him.