Sunday, 27 May 2018
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Opening gala a big, happy hit

Opening gala a big, happy hit
13 May
11:15

At $500, the winning bid went to 8-year-old Hunter Chesson. 

Chesson bested several bidders as the price ratcheted up Friday night for a New Orleans Saints helmet signed by quarterback Drew Brees. He let the full-size helmet slink down over his forehead, smiling.

It was a sought-after item in a spirited live auction at the El Festival Espanol de Nuevo Iberia’s opening gala, a primary fundraiser for this weekend’s festival. 

Brian Campbell, a Delcambre native and an exercise science professor at UL Lafayette, also auctioned off a Ragin’ Cajun helmet signed by Brian Mitchell and Elijah Maguire; an LSU jersey signed by Billy Cannon, Justin Vincent and Jacob Hester, and several other signed sports memorabilia. An LSU football jersey with several more signatures went for $400. 

Campbell called himself an “autograph hunter” and his items were not limited to sports. An American flag-painted acoustic guitar signed by Aaron Tippin, of “Where the Stars & Stripes & Eagles Fly” fame, also  was auctioned. There was a hand-crafted and John Deere-branded bench auctioned off, and a Spanish Festival-inspired Troy Leleux painting brought in $500. 

“We do this to help the community develop, and to help downtown grow,” Gala Organizer Mike Parich Jr. said. 

“It takes about a year to put it together. I have to thank Cathy Segura — she plays a huge role in this too, and it’s all volunteer. It honors the heritage of our town’s Spanish founders,” Parich Jr., who himself is largely Italian but is in part descended from the Spanish Viators, said. 

The night featured Spanish-inspired dishes served buffet-style from several area restaurants, including Landry’s, Little River Inn; Bon Creole; Parich’s own Clementine on Main, of New Iberia; the St. John Restaurant, of St. Martinville, and Pamplona Tapas Bar and Restaurant, of Lafayette. The Iberia Medical Center also contributed food. 

“We came last year and it was a blast, so we’re back again,” Roy Briggs said. “The entertainment is phenomenal, and I love paella.” 

Aside from Campbell’s comedic auction (“I just flew in from Delcambre at 5 p.m.,” he said, and, “I’ve performed from coast to coast — which, if you’re from Delcambre, means from Pecan Island to Cypremort Point”), there were two musical and dance performances from the New Orleans-based Michaela y Fiesta Flamenca. 

The gala was held at the Sliman Theater. The venue was streamed with Spanish flags, and along its brick walls hung banners bearing the names of the Spanish founding families: Segura, Lopez, Romero, Viator, Miguez, Prados and Gary. 

“This is really cool. Spanish people started New Iberia,” said Wendy Parich, the gala organizer’s mother. 

“There is a plaque downtown with the names of the Spanish founders of New Iberia. I didn’t even know, but five of them are my ancestors,” she said.

The festival continued this weekend with races, cook-offs and music. But Chesson, the Saints helmet still slinking down his forehead, had his sights set beyond the weekend. Campbell had tacked on an additional reward for the winning bid: a personal meeting in New Orleans with Drew Brees himself. 

“Contact me, I’ll arrange it,” Campbell said. “I know people.”

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