GRAMERCY -- Just after sunset it begins. Dozens of structures go up in flames lighting the night and, legend has it, the way for Papa Noel.
“I think that was (Santa) that just passed,” said Bridge City resident Lorenzo Gautreaux.
It’s a centuries-old tradition in the river parishes that draws crowds from across the country.
“Pretty unique experience for us, since I’m originally from Virginia Beach,” said Baton Rouge resident Pixie Storer. “And so we always laugh and say, where else can you have big open fires and fireworks and everyone drinking but in Gramercy?”
With 125 bonfires along a 10-mile stretch of the Mississippi River, it’s an impressive site – especially if it’s your first time.
“I didn’t know they were so big. It’s shocking, almost 20 feet tall,” said Baton Rouge resident George Gustafson.
These structures can take weeks to build, only to burn in a matter of hours. Many of these families have been building these bonfires for generations.
But they say the best part isn’t the bonfires. It’s the atmosphere.
“It’s really one big party. It’s pretty much like Mardi Gras,” said Terry Borne, the mayor of Gramercy.
“It means tradition. For doing it all these years, and just to see them burn, it brings everybody together.”
The bonfires will burn through the wee hours of the morning.