The pageantry of Acadiana’s festivals has evolved over the years, but it remains deep-rooted in tradition and still has great meaning to past and present queens, their families and the communities they represent. We caught up with three recently crowned queens who now are part of the long history of three of the area’s oldest festivals. They are now extensions of their community’s identity and spirit – a legacy they are proud to own.
Crawfish Festival, Leiton LeBlanc
As of this year, when she became the 2022 Breaux Bridge Crawfish Queen, Leiton LeBlanc has the distinct honor of being the second woman to have won all four Crawfish Festival pageant titles. That includes Little Miss Pincher in 2008, Junior Queen in 2012, and Ecrevette in 2014.
“I’ve fulfilled a lifelong dream; it’s everything I hoped, and more,” shares LeBlanc. The Breaux Bridge native has come full circle from handing the Little Miss Pincher crown over to her sister, Paige, in 2009.
For the 21-year-old, the title means promoting the crawfish industry as best she can. “My grandfather helped create some of the crawfish ponds in the area in the mid nineteenth century,” she explains. “I am an ambassador to eat local crawfish, so that we can maintain the crawfish industry. I also want to promote awareness of the Cajun heritage to the younger generation.”
She’s no stranger to the stage. Leblanc began playing fiddle in fifth grade and, in 2011, became part of the LeBlanc Family Band alongside her brother and sister. For five years the siblings entertained crowds with their Cajun French music, including audiences at the kids tent at Jazz Festival and as far as Mexico and Canada.
Today LeBlanc still sings and plays fiddle in the all-girl band Bellerose.
It’s fitting that her full-time work as assistant to the director of St. Martin Parish Tourism allows her the opportunity to promote area festivals to tourists and potential visitors. She’s happy when she’s able to wear her crown while attending conventions for work; it’s proven to be a great conversation starter.
LeBlanc will graduate from UL at Lafayette this December in communications, with a degree in public relations. She plans to attend graduate school for her MBA, concentrating on hospitality management with intent to continue her work in tourism. “My passion is Cajun culture.”
Sugar Cane Festival Queen Sugar, Erin Blanchard Duplechain
When Erin Blanchard Duplechain was named Queen Sugar in 2019, it caught her by complete surprise. “When they called my name, it didn’t register,” she says. “I was clapping like the others on stage because I didn’t think I was going to win. When I looked down the line of contestants, everyone was looking at me. I was caught off guard; it took a month staring at the crown for it to sink in.”
A cadet in the ROTC at the time, Duplechain (then, still a Blanchard) was to reign in 2020, but the pandemic’s restrictions prevented that from happening. The year still turned out to be a busy one for the Cecilia native. She married in November and the following month was commissioned as a first lieutenant in the Army and moved to Phoenix City, AL near Fort Benning, where her husband serves as staff sergeant.
Her Queen Sugar title has certainly become a point of interest among fellow officers unfamiliar with festival queens. “They ask if it’s the same as Miss America,” she quips. “I still have that joy telling others about the sugar cane industry and its festival.”
This June the 24-year-old accomplished two milestones on the same day – having twins. She will be returning from maternity leave to her job as maintenance control officer, with a team of 30, overseeing all things that need maintenance, from vehicles and generators to weapon systems, in excess of $20 million worth of equipment.
After her army contract expires, Duplechain and her husband hope to buy a home in the Acadiana area and enough land to raise cattle. She would like to work with the Department of Agriculture and maybe even work her way up to the Commissioner of Agriculture position. And, just maybe, there is a crown in the future for her twins.
Shrimp Festival, Blair Blanchard
Just one week before the Delcambre Shrimp Queen pageant in 2012, a determined Blair Blanchard decided to enter the contest – and she won. There was nothing impulsive about her decision – after all, she had a lot of experience over the years.
The native New Iberian fell in love with the Shrimp Festival In 2005 when she ran for Junior Shrimp Queen and turned out second runner up. “I didn’t want to be any other festival queen but Shrimp Queen,” she says, still with determination in her voice at 30. Her eagerness for the title only grew when her sister Lacey was crowned Shrimp Queen in 2009. “When my sister won, I saw how much the Shrimp Festival meant to the town of Delcambre and how much the residents supported it.”
After she was crowned, Blanchard worked to show that same support. She was an advocate of the bill requiring restaurants to disclose the true origin of imported shrimp (and crawfish). With her marketing background, she and her sister developed the slogan “Friends Don’t Let Friends Eat Imported Shrimp,” which became her own mantra as queen in 2012, as well as the festivals’, and one that she took to the legislature and Washington DC Mardi Gras.
LeBlanc has now passed down the festival lineage to one of her two sons, Wyatt, who is this year’s Baby Shrimp King. This is his second crown, after being named Tiny Shrimp King in 2018, at age 2. (That same year Blanchard’s nine-month-old nephew was crowned Infant King.)
Last month Blanchard and Wyatt attended the five-day long Shrimp Festival – after two years of COVID shutdown. Walking the festival grounds, she says, is an emotional feeling as it brings to mind first going when her sister was queen. “It’s changed since then, but it’s still an overwhelming feeling. The memories are engrained,” she confides.