CADE — Fishing, hunting, boating, politics and more were fair game for conversation as outdoorsmen converged by the hundreds on the Cade Community Center for Thursday night’s Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana’s Sugar Chapter banquet presented by Arceneaux Ford.

A crowd pegged at between 650-700 people attended the annual event, which has emerged as the social event of the year for outdoorsmen, and raised an estimated $135,000, based on preliminary reports, according to CCA-Louisiana Southwest Regional Director Corry Landry of New Iberia. A live auction featuring 38 items accounted for at least $60,000 of that total, Landry said.

Kelly Frederick of New Iberia, a veteran Sugar Chapter member who was installed as the chapter’s next president Thursday, said, “It was a blast. The auctions (live auction and silent auction) went great. They all sold for a really good price.”

Frederick, a 26-year-old Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office crime scene detective and evidence custodian, served as the chapter’s banquet chairman the past two years, which made her even prouder of the highly successful event that attracted banquet-goers from the Teche Area, Acadiana and across Louisiana.

She praised the entire committee.

“By far, with my experience with all of the other chapters, this chapter is by far the best. We all come together to get something done,” she said, noting she wants to steer the chapter on the same course and beyond.

“Of course. It’s great. I want it get to get better and better. Good teamwork makes the dream work.”

Bank officers, laborers, doctors, cabinet makers, lawyers, salesmen, contractors, college students, mechanics, accountants, financial advisors, politicians, political candidates and others began filing into the community center before 5:30 p.m. They all had something in common: the outdoors and an interest conservation.

Before the men, women and children left, they were able to enjoy liquid refreshments, including adult beverages, and a meal prepared by Bon Creole Seafood in New Iberia.

Raffle items ringed the community center. More than 70 tables were arranged on the main floor in front of the big stage.

One of the most popular spots was located in one corner of the huge center, where Rodney Lewis Art wowed the crowd with painted miniature wooden pirogues that are highly regarded across the Sportsman’s Paradise. (See related story on Pge B6.)

“Mr. Lewis is a good guy,” Landry said, noting the Baton Rouge artist donated No. 35 on the live auction list, described as a “beautiful piece art,” “hand-carved and painted on a reclaimed piece of crown wood.”

Lewis was one of two vendors on hand for the annual event. The other was Louisiana-based Cousin’s Smokehouse, which offered samples of its tender beef jerky to the crowd.

As people gravitated toward the tables with their meals and before the hard-working committee was introduced to the crowd, Landry took an appreciative look around at the growing crowd.

“It’s going good. There’s a lot of excitement in the area. I see a lot of new faces and a lot of familiar faces,” he said about 6:30 p.m.

In summary, he said later, “It was an overall good night for coastal restoration. The crowd was electric. It’s one of the premier events in the state just because of the community support that we have.”

Kirk Sieber, a St. Martinville native and outdoorsman who co-founded the Sugar Chapter, appreciated the response to a well-planned event.

“Everything’s going well. Everything’s looking nice. We’ve had a good response to the banquet this year and we’re looking forward to a good night and raising money for conservation,” Sieber said.

And the money will be sunk into more projects along the state’s coast, he emphasized.

“We’re excited about our program called R.E.E.F. Louisiana Program, installing offshore reefs,” he said about the new program, one that got underway the last week of June below Marsh Island with the conservation organization’s first-ever project in near-offshore waters at the old South Marsh Island 233.

Sieber also was happy to report that, by the way, speckled trout already are being caught at the site.

There are more near-offshore artificial reefs to come, soon, he said.

“Vermilion 119 and 124 are going to go down within the next two weeks. The material’s all in place and ready to go down,” he said about the artificial reefs that will be deposited in 80-foot depths, prime locales for red snapper.

Also, he said, there is enough material to warrant another artificial reef planned at Eugene Island 51, which once was a speckled trout fishing mecca like SMI 233.

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