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Top kill fails to dampen festival spirits

Louisiana communities put on a brave face as Gulf of Mexico oil spill threatens livelihoods.

Last modified: 30 May 2010 02:41
It's not all doom and gloom in Southern Louisiana this weekend.
 
BP may have killed "Top Kill" the operation to plug the oil gusher at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico but the people of Plaquemines Parish in Louisiana went ahead with their annual Seafood Festival as a way of showing the world their famous ocean produce is fit to eat.

Hundreds turned up on a Saturday morning despite the looming bad news from the Deep Water Horizon accident site.

This was the sixth Seafood Festival but the first time its had a sea festival beauty queen.

19 year old Alexandra Belair was chosen.  She told me:

"I feel wonderful I'm ready to represent this great parish and this great festival and all we have to offer here and just let everybody know that our seafood is still safe."

The man behind the Seafood Festival, Keith Hinkley, Plaquemines Parish Councillor said seeing Alexandra crowned almost made him cry - a sign of the times these days with the oil spill damaging the parish's coastline.

"This is a good thing right here.  This young lady can go out to the state of Louisiana and represent Plaquemines Parish and the seafood industry and really get the word out that hey were gonna come back we're gonna be OK and I believe she's gonna do a wonderful job."

Oysters are one Louisiana delicacy that is enjoyed in this part of the world and exported all over the country.

"These are Louisiana charbroiled oysters fresh from the gulf waters of Louisiana Plaquemines Parish," said Eddie Hymel who had just bought two plates full for his family - he insisted I try first a cooked one, then a fresh one.  They were pretty good and the fresh one surprisingly tasty I must say.

So what do those attending the seafood fair say to people afraid they'll be eating oil contaminated seafood right now?

John Diemer said: "Oh come on down and eat this food, this food is great.  This food, nothing is wrong with this food.  Yes they need to understand that when you have disasters you clean it up and make it better.

Lawrence Williams added: "I don't think the board of health is gonna allow them to serve anything that would be any good."

Roy Mullins chipped in: "I wouldn't be shy about coming on down here and enjoying something like this, this festival and stuff, they do have good decent food here and good decent people here."

The oil crisis means rolling closures of fishing grounds and oyster beds as the oil shifts position with the tide which means food like this is available sporadically at the moment depending on what the authorities decide.

These people are hoping and praying it won't be too long until the main source of their way of life is freely available everywhere once again - though BP's news late Saturday afternoon will surely test their optimism.