COTEAU — “Happy Lao New Year, who’s ready to party?” blared over the loudspeakers Saturday afternoon in Lanexang Village as more than 1,000 people filtered into the neighborhood to celebrate another new year on the Laotian calendar.
The festival is organized by the village and is centered at Wat Thammarattanaram, the scenic Buddhist temple complete with monks that live year-round on the temple grounds. The event saw people of all stripes venture into the village and temple while the festival continued Saturday and ends today.
The new year festivities function in much the same way as a Mardi Gras and fais-do-do. The highlight of the new year celebration was along the streets of Lanexang Village, where float riders dance and sing to the packed crowd.
The parade lasted for several hours, and at 5 p.m. the grounds were closed so volunteers could pick up the litter that had accumulated throughout the day.
Meanwhile in the temple, about 50 vendors set up near the fairgrounds to sell merchandise, traditional Laotian garb and a variety of different food. Tasty sushi, pho and chicken were available for those attending the event, while other vendors sold unique beverages like sugar cane juice and Thai tea.
“The food’s one of the main reasons I come,” Billy Souriyakhamphong of New Iberia said.
The event also drew many from outside Iberia Parish. Sami Parbhoo of Lafayette said this was his third time visiting Lanexang Village and Wat Thammarattanaram for the new year celebrations.
“It’s great, I love it,” Parbhoo said. “The food is absolutely amazing. It’s like you’re being transported to a different country.”
Festivities started Friday with vendors setting up booths and a smaller crowd entering the area. Friday night was the Songkran Pageant, an annual beauty pageant in which the winners and runners-up rode in Saturday afternoon’s parade.
The parade continued for three to four hours, with visitors walking back and forth around vehicles traveling three or four streets that comprised the parade route. a line of vehicles driving down the streets of the neighborhood with float riders and music. Saturday night, visitors were treated to a fais-do-do style celebration.
Today, the final day of the celebration, event-goers will celebrate the new year by building sand castles, and Phou said vendors stay on the grounds until they run out of goods.
Event coordinator Fancy Phou said the final day of the three-day event features thesand castles and water festival, which are traditional fun events for children. The sand castle ceremony starts at noon.