The first “Christmas in Orangefield” festival held Saturday, “was beyond our expectations, it was really nice” said Jesse Fremont, one of the committee members. The festival was held in conjunction with returning the tradition of the lighted oil derrick to the Orangefield community. The honor of lighting the derrick was given to Lois Remke Boehme, daughter of Bill Remke, the first man to put Christmas lights on a derrick in 1953.

There are only two derricks left in the oil field. Hurricanes destroyed many and others were discarded because they were no longer needed. The museum committee has been raising money to get the remaining derricks moved to the museum grounds. Harvey Wilson said they hope to have the derricks permanently in place at the museum next year for the derrick lighting. Bobby Cormier provided this year’s temporary solution.

The festival officially began Friday night with a hootenanny at the elementary school, then started Saturday morning with a Christmas parade.

“It was a good parade, the weather was good- a little windy- but was good.
Everything came together.” It was a great turnout in the early part of the day for the parade and booths. If you wanted to do a little Christmas shopping, there were a variety of items for sale from jewelry, Christmas decorations, goodies to eat and Bobcat branded items.

Pony rides were provided by the Bland family.“We’re part of the Youth Rodeo Association,” said Lisa Bland. “They needed a way to raise money. I said, ‘I’ll bring my pony, we’ll do pony rides.’” Bland said her girls participate in barrel racing. Her youngest daughter, 3-year-old Mary, has been riding her pony, Teddy Bear, since she was 18 months old.

The Blands also lent a few animals to the petting zoo.

“Uncle Jesse’s Farm” was an educational trail conceived by Janet Montagne and manned by members of the Orangefield FFA to teach children where their food comes from. Montagne admitted she had seen the idea somewhere else and thought it would be a good project. “We took it and ran with our own ideas. It teaches them the life of a farmer and how you sell it to the farmers’ market at the end,” she said.

The path started with a feed store where farmers would buy the feed for their animals and seeds for their crops. There were also examples of eggs coming from chickens, a garden and an orchard where kids could pick apples and oranges. They then learned about wool coming from sheep and milk coming from cows. K-Dan’s Super Foods sponsored the last booth, a grocery store where kids could spend the play money they received for their goods at the farmers’ market to buy their groceries.

“We started Thanksgiving week, building everything. I think we started painting four days ago,” said Montagne. “Next year it will be bigger and better, we’ll have a little bit more money to put into it.”

Music was provided throughout the day. Betty Chandler’s gumbo, Dutch oven cooking, and Italian sausage was available for those that were hungry.

The Orangefield Cormier Museum was open all day. Many of the participants had never been to the museum before to see the vast collection of toys, tools, memorabilia, cars and other items accumulated by Paul Cormier that are displayed in shops resembling life in Orangefield during the 1920s.

Darrell Hunter, a resident of Beaumont and a vendor at the festival took time to tour the museum. “It’s real nice. I like old historical stuff and I work for an oil company,” he said. “Ya’ll have done a great job. It’s something to contribute to the kids, the history, how it was made and where it’s going…the past, present and future.”

Some of the “shops” in the displays are open where you can step inside to get a closer look. In the skating rink, the juke box was playing while Hannah and Adriana Francis were playing foosball.

In another part of the building Peyton Trahan, 3, rode the mechanical horse. Peyton is the great-great-granddaughter of “Geaux Slow” Granger.

Helen Clark of Orangefield was a first-time visitor. “You could come six times and not see everything,” she said.

The cold did drive the crowd away in the afternoon, but they showed back up for the reading of “A Cajun Night before Christmas” by Orange County Judge Carl Thibodeaux and the lighting of the derrick.

Harvey Wilson, a member of the museum committee read a story written by Vergie Scales in the mid-70s, when the tradition of the lighted derrick first returned to Orangefield, when the Lions Club took over the task.

Members of the original group of Lions on hand were Jesse Fremont, Charles Donnaud, Bobby Cormier, Terry Vance, Robert Montagne and Byron Franks.

They posed with Ms. Boehme before the official lighting of the derrick.
“We hope to make this an annual job,” said Fremont. “It’s for the kids; the kids had a good time.”

About Penny LeLeux

Penny has worked at The Record Newspapers since 2006. A member of the editorial staff, she has "done everything but print it." Most frequently she writes entertainment reviews and human interest stories, with a little paranormal thrown in from time to time.She has been a lifelong member of the Orangefield community.