Evangeline Holiday Festival Draws Plenty of Interest

The All American Fourth of July Festival, expanded to three days this year, generated business gains for Evangeline Downs, track officials said. Veterans of the local racing scene claimed the crowd on July 4 was one of the largest in the 38-year history of the Carencro, La., racetrack.

"It certainly exceeded our expectations," Evangeline Downs general manager David Yount said. "The weather held well for (July 3-4), but may have affected us (July 5). I was very proud of the hard work put in by my staff and think this was a positive step toward building something special for our new facility in St. Landry Parish."

Official attendance figures weren't immediately available, but total handle for the three days increased almost 3.5% from last year. "We had a number of new fans here over the weekend," Yount said. "Typically, those people do not wager as much as a regular but they did buy programs and beer, and participated heavily in our carnival outside the building."

The festival traditionally has taken place on one day--July 4--but was expanded to three days this year. The July 4 fireworks display is the largest public display in the area, track officials said.

"We hope to build upon our successes of this year as we begin planning for next," Yount said. "With a little tweaking, this event could become the biggest in Acadiana next to Mardi Gras."

Evangeline Downs is open for live racing through Sept. 1. The track, now owned by Peninsula Gaming, will move to neighboring St. Landry Parish, where a slot-machine parlor is expected to be ready in 2004. By 2005, live racing is expected to move to the new facility.