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Lakefest 2021 draws crowd of hundreds to Eagle Lake

Lakefest 2021, a day of arts, crafts, games, live music and family fun, was a day organizer Linda Banchetti said she almost didn’t think would happen.

However, despite the odds and floodwaters, the first Memorial Day Weekend Lakefest celebration in three years drew a crowd of hundreds to the banks of Eagle Lake. Saturday began with overcast skies, and Friday was rain-filled as well, meaning much of the festival site was underwater.

However, thanks to a little elbow grease and what Banchetti described as a gift from above, the ground was dry and the sun was shining when festival-goers began turning off Highway 61 and heading for the lakeshore.

Canceled one year due to the Backwater Flood, and another due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s Lakefest signaled a return to in-person gatherings for many Warren County residents.

“I’m going to get (emotional). Everyone’s been wanting to have this event again, and with COVID and the flood and everything, this year was the perfect time to have it,” Banchetti said. “This is my seventh year working with Lakefest. There’s a lot of great vendors.”

A variety of artists and food vendors sold their wares at Saturday’s Lakefest, ranging from Natchitoches meat pies and pork rinds to cigar-box guitars.

Local artist Sonja Morgan said this year marked her first Lakefest as a vendor, but that she planned to come back next year.

“These people are amazing,” Morgan said. “Everyone has been friendly, and so happy to be outside.”

Morgan makes jewelry from vintage china plates, and hand-paints mixed medium chandelier earrings. She began her craft during the pandemic, and it’s carried on to become a profitable venture, she said.

One repeat vendor at the festival was Kayla McPherson-Sullivan, who traveled to Lakefest from Simpson County to sell hairbows and children’s accessories.

The three-year wait was well worth it, McPherson-Sullivan said as her six-month-old son napped behind her booth.

“Three years ago, it was a really good crowd before the storm hit,” she said. “We drive over an hour and a half to attend this event. It’s been a good turnout, considering how many events take place this weekend.”

Eagle Lake resident and Vicksburg Convention Center Executive Director Annette Kirklin said the 2021 Lakefest was the most successful one she’d seen.

“Before the (Backwater) flood, there was easily 1,000 people that would come to this,” she said. “I’m betting that even more than that will show up today.”

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