The New Iberia Ducks Unlimited Chapter’s first combined fundraising event for sponsors and general members was one for the ages, all ages.
Great-grandfathers who have been with the chapter since its inception in the mid-1970s, parents, young adults, teens and, even, a baby or two were among the nearly 200 people who attended the DU banquet held Thursday night at the Isle of Iberia RV Resort. That mix of generations was what local chapter officials were hopeful of attracting when they eased into a family-oriented theme years ago.
“We changed this thing to be a family-oriented thing,” Burt Cestia III of New Iberia, one of the local chapter’s founding fathers, said as men, women and children filed into the center.
“There are a lot of good people here from all over the parish,” Cestia said.
To a man and woman, they supported the nonprofit organization that conserves, restores and manages wetlands and related habitats used by waterfowl in North America, he said.
“I still think it’s one of the better organizations as far as the conservation thing and how they do it,” the avid duck hunter said.
Fifty-four individual sponsors were on hand for the banquet, which featured a pork and sausage jambalaya, green beans, cole slow and brownies, plenty of liquid refreshments, raffles and live and silent auctions.
Preliminary, unofficial estimates show that the event raised a little more than $77,000, or Bucks for Ducks, New Iberia DU Chapter Chairman Jason Foster reported in an email on Friday. Sponsorships totaled $30,950 while the raffle took in $7,070, the silent auction generated $1,980 and the live auction brought in $12,050, Foster said.
Around 6:30 p.m., Nick Lichenstein of Thibodaux, Louisiana Ducks Unlimited state chairman, surveyed the growing crowd in appreciation.
“I think the turnout is great. It’s exciting to see so many people who care about conservation show up,” Lichenstein said before supper was served.
‘This is a packed house. There’s not going to be too many open seats.”
He chatted with numerous local chapter officials, including Jason Foster and Robert Dore, and local members who attended the annual event.
Lichenstein said his local chapter’s fundraising event will be Nov. 14.
Among the local banquet-goers was Allison Louis, co-owner of Reliable Power Systems of Louisiana, a local company, and the daughter of owner Jaime Johns. Their company was one of 12 Mallard Sponsors ($800) at the event and family and guests sat at the table.
Louis said she has attended one previous DU banquet in New Iberia. She missed last year’s fundraiser due to the birth of her daughter, Olivia, who also attended and wore a pink Ducks Unlimited outfit with the familiar logo over the words.
“I ordered that online from the DU website. I wanted to get her a shirt but a dress it better,” she said, smiling.
She was enjoying the event and intended to bid on one or more auction items, she said.
Josh Patton of New Iberia, 26, attended with his father-in-law, Jerome Gaspard. Patton was born in Ruston, lived in New Iberia before returning to Ruston, then moved back to New Iberia in 2018.
The natural gas compressor mechanic at Hilcorp Energy Co. said he has been a Ducks Unlimited member for about four years and avidly supports DU.
“They do good work all over the state managing birds,” Patton said. “I love duck hunting. I’ve duck hunted my whole life.”
He plans to do more duck hunting this season in the Ruston area and around Gueydan, he said.