While standing on the Boggy Bayou Festival stage, long time Boggy Bayou Boardmembers Bernice Ardoin (left) and Sandra Book (right) gaze upon the festival poster for the 35th Annual Boggy Bayou Festival set to take place April 4 - April 6. The two ladies will be stepping down from their positions on the board, which they have each served on since its creation. (Gazette photo by Elizabeth West)
The end of an era
After more than 30 years, Boggy Bayou Festival Boardmembers Bernice Ardoin and Sandra Book are stepping down from their positions on the board they have served on since its creation.
The two ladies have played a major part in providing the Pine Prairie community, as well as surrounding areas, with the opportunity to gather with family and friends to make lasting enjoyable memories.
Throughout their time on the board, Ardoin and Book have had the great fortune of keeping alive the brain child of beloved St. Peter’s Catholic Church Priest, Father Leslie Prescott, and Jim Conway.
As the two women sat across from one another in the board’s meeting room located on the festival grounds, they gasped in disbelief that it had already been 35 years since the very first festival was held where the Prairie Manor Nursing Home sits today.
Ardoin said her motto in life has always been, “My life is God’s gift to me. What I do with my life is my gift to God,” and she has without a doubt done a lot through her life in conjunction with serving on the Boggy Bayou board.
Ardoin, who has been married to Teddy Ardoin of Pine Prairie for 34 years, has found a way to have a successful career working for 20 years at the Ville Platte Gazette and then becoming an educator at her Alma Mater - Pine Prairie High- while serving her community on the Boggy Bayou board.
Together, Ardoin and her husband have two sons, Brody and Tyler Ardoin, and two grandchildren: two-year-old Gunner James and four month old Lilah Grace. She and her husband have also raised her great-nephew, Bryant Fuselier, for almost 10 years now.
As a Boggy Bayou boardmember, Ardoin has served as secretary, and vice president, before becoming board president 30 years ago. She was the pageant director for 31 years and just recently handed that torch over to festival boardmember Chasessica Basco.
While the festival originally only had a Miss Boggy Bayou, Ardoin was the key person that added all the youth pageants the festival hosts today, as well as King.
One of the greatest gifts Ardoin has received from the festival she said has been the fact that she has been able to “work with so many wonderful people during my Boggy Bayou tenure.” Ardoin said, “People have been great and always supported my efforts by giving so generously.”
One of her favorite memories from the last 35 years of Boggy has been a challenge she remembers Father Prescott making each year that involved a race with the Baptist preacher down the slide at the festival. Ardoin said, “Every year Father Prescott would challenge the Baptist preacher to go down the super slide to see who could slide faster. And, whoever would win would joke and say things like ‘God must be on my side.’ It was always fun, and it brought everyone together because the whole crowd would gather at the slide to watch.”
For Book, the last 35 years she said, “Have always been exciting, mostly because we got to watch the community have a place to come and enjoy the atmosphere and entertainment.”
Book, who has served as both the board’s secretary and treasurer, was married to the late Jerry Book. She has two children, Chuck Leggett and Brandi Book Stutes. She is the proud grandmother of Tyler and Devin Leggett and Violet Renee Stutes. She also has two great-granddaughters, Harley and Amber. Book is also a former elector of St, Peter’s Church.
Book’s ties to the festival run deep because as the administrator at Prairie Manor Nursing Home she is able to see to it that the proceeds from the festival are used to purchase something residents greatly need.
Throughout the years, the two ladies have served with an array of individuals, one of which is Ray Forman.
One of his fondest memories serving with Ardoin and Book is a memory that both of them named as one of the most unforgettable Boggy Bayou Festivals. Forman, who served with the ladies for 18 years, said, “I’ll never forget the year it snowed,” or as Ardoin and Book remember it, the year it sleeted. Forman continued, “That was the only year we had to close the festival for one day. That was a good time. We were all just sitting around laughing and having a good time.”
As far as what it was like working with Ardoin and Book, Forman said, “It was a joy to work with them. There were no arguments, and we pretty much always seemed to get along well and were on the same page most of the time. I loved every minute of it.”
When it came to Ardoin and running the pageants, Forman said, “Bernice busted herself every year to get the job done.”
Now, as the two ladies prepare for their final festival as boardmembers both women are ready to have fill their spare time with new tasks.
Book said she looks forward to now having time to start the Blue Bird Committee again, which is a group of ladies that goes and visits with nursing home residents and does things like drink coffee with them. She said she also hopes to become a Eucharistic minister for the nursing home.
As far as Ardoin, she said she is looking forward to just having more time to spend with her family.
On their way out, they both say the best advice they can give to current and future boardmembers is to “never forget the cause,” because Book said, “That is what has kept us going this whole time.”