The Group Travel Leader

APR 2017

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By Herb Sparrow GROUP TRAVEL LE ADER T H E has grown to attract visitors from across the country, yet it still holds significance for locals. "This is a local family tradition; people and their families have grown up with this festival," Leo said. Festivities kick off the weekend before Thanksgiving, when the more than 300,000 lights are switched on. From then through New Year's, every Saturday sees live music perfor- mances and a fireworks display along the riv- erbank. Other events such as carol services are dotted through the month, with the main Christmas Festival and parade taking place the first weekend of December. Leo warns this is also the most crowded weekend and suggests that if groups want a less-busy experience, they should plan to come the following weekend. The event website has links to local hotels and can help groups find accommodations. They also ask that groups call ahead so that they can arrange free bus parking. WWW.NATCHITOCHESCHRISTMAS.COM Other events on the festival's busy sched- ule include a carnival, parades and pirate cos- tume contests, and of course, it wouldn't be a Louisiana festival without a large selection of local food and live music. A variety of shows and the largest competitive arm-wrestling tour- nament in the Gulf South are open to visitors, and the festival ends with fireworks display on the final night. Contraband Days attracts more than 100,000 visitors, so groups are advised to book early at one of the Lake Charles area's many hotels and resorts. WWW.CONTRABANDDAYS.COM CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL N A T C H I T O C H E S Jill Leo, director of festivals and events with the Natchitoches Historic District Business Association, said one of her favorite things about the town's Christmas Festival is that it is a family event with something for everyone. Since its humble beginnings in 1927, the event THE INTERNATIONAL RICE FESTIVAL'S RICE QUEEN Courtesy International Rice Festival Courtesy www.lindseyjanies.com CONTRABAND DAYS IN LAKE CHARLES 8 0 0 - 6 3 4 - 9 4 4 3 • w w w. L o u i s i a n a N o r t h s h o r e . c o m /g r o u p s rejuvenate your mind & body Adventure, Excitement, Relaxation & Inspiration. That's what you'll fi nd in St. Tammany Parish. Visit the Northshore and bring your appetite for great Louisiana cooking, and for living. Only 45 minutes from New Orleans. L O U I S I A N A ' S N O R T H S H O R E body © Cajun Encounters

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