Haas Whittington reigns over 30th Corn Festival
Sat, 06/11/2016 - 05:00
Was grand marshal of first festival
In 1987, the excitement was everywhere concerning the first Louisiana Corn Festival. No one knew if the festival would succeed or just fade away after a few years.
Fast forward 30 years later, and one of the first organizers of the festival also served as the first grand marshal of the first festival. At the 30th Annual La. Corn Festival, Haas Whittington has been asked to serve as the grand marshal again.
Whittington is presiding over the festival, which began Thursday and will end tonight and will be featured during the city-wide parade that starts at 10 a.m. today and winds it way through the streets of Bunkie.
“The festival committee wanted to honor someone who had ties to the first-ever festival,” La. Corn Festival Chairwoman Tiffany Tuminello said. “We thought it was fitting to bring back the first ever grand marshal.”
Whittington and his wife, Betty Whittington, owned an insurance company in Bunkie and continued to run the company until they retired several years ago.
“I was talking to Mayor Fred Feeney in late 1986 or early 1987 and the talk of a festival came up,” Whittington explained. “Bunkie was thriving then but was the only city without a festival. I told the mayor that no city or town had a corn festival and at that time corn was a big crop in the area.”
He said the wheels were put in motion and plans were made to have the first festival. People started ordering items that would decorate Bunkie. Whittington went on to say the people in Bunkie became very involved in organizing the festival in 1987.
“I didn’t have very much to do with the organizing of all the events,” he continued. “I was then asked to be the grand marshal because Mayor Feeney and I came up with the idea. I never knew the event would grow to the size it is today.”
Whittington said the parade in 1987 was “huge.” He said the parade was organized by Margie Melancon.
“The work the people did in the first festival impressed me,” Whittington said. “Bunkie was moving up at the time and it gave the people something to do. Today, the festival is about the only thing left to do in Bunkie.”
Whittington said the festival received a boost a few years later when the late Tony Armand took over the festival and developed it further.
Another big change was the festival grounds. Whittington said the first festival didn’t have great facilities to hold the festival. However, over the years, the festival has grown, Haas Auditorium was improved, a large pavilion was added and the baseball field has seen large improvements.
“I don’t even think we could have used Haas Auditorium in 1987 even if we needed it. It was in bad shape,” Whittington added. “The entire festival grounds has been improved over the years.”