Like many festivals in Acadiana, the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival crowns its royalty every year.
Eric Zernich wanted to learn more about this tradition, so he sat down with the first two Crawfish Queens to hear what the honor meant to them.
Diane Domingues vividly remembers the events leading up to her becoming the first ever Crawfish Festival Queen. It was 1959 and the Festival then was to celebrate Breaux Bridge’s centennial year..
Diane says that when she found out about the centennial she immediately set to work. Her parents were out of town at the time so Domingues says she prepared everything on her own. " I knew what kinda dress I wanted, I had a lady that sewed for us that made my dress and that was the dress I wore for the ball."
The crown was sterling silver and Domingues says, it didn’t quite fit on her head.
"They put it right over here for it to show and it gives you a headache," Domingues says indicating the part of the forehead where the crown would sit. "It really gives you a mark on your head."
Despite an uncomfortable crown, Domingues’ parents wanted her to be able to have the item forever.
"After I won, my mother and daddy wanted me to keep it as a souvenir," says Domingues. "They went to New Orleans had another one made which I passed on to Emmaline (the 1960 Crawfish Queen), and they wanted me to have the original scepter."
One of the special honors of being the Crawfish Queen was being invited to attend the Mardi Gras Ball in Washington D.C. A tradition to which every Crawfish Queen since has been invited
"The queens try to keep going and keep it a tradition. It’s an honor to be at that ball over there," recalls Domingues.
Emmaline Thibodeaux was crowned the 1960 Crawfish Festival Queen. She says that the Mardi Gras party was a truly unique experience for her.
"I was honored to meet President John F. Kennedy."
During their reigns, both Domingues and Thibodeaux gave back to Breaux Bridge by helping promote the city’s French culture.
"Most importantly, one of the things I did was work with Jeanne Calliste, our French teacher," explains Thibodeaux of her royal focus. "We would promote French themes like ‘live our heritage’ and that’s so important because here people come for the ‘joie de vivre,’ the joy of living. They come to eat crawfish and they come to visit."
The first two crawfish queens created a "Breaux Bridge dynasty," as their daughters too, would go on to become queens.
Thibodeaux’s daughter Lydia Capedepon, the 1984 Crawfish Queen, says that the chance to be queen was rooted in her tradition.
"Growing up I got to see her get dressed every year, put on her crown, and be a part of this wonderful festive activity. For me, and I guess a lot of the girls I ran with, growing up in Breaux Bridge you just did it."