One day in 1937, former Louisiana governor Richard Leche was watching photographers setting up photos to promote local agricultural products, with one shoot featuring a woman in a rice costume. At that moment, he sprang up and shouted, “Let’s have a rice festival!”
That October, Acadia Parish’s Rice Carnival was combined with the town of Crowley’s Golden Jubilee — the first ever National Rice Festival.
The streets of the tiny town (population 9,262) were packed with over 35,000 visitors from around Louisiana and beyond. Radio broadcasters described the celebrations as people danced, performed, and coronated a Rice Queen.
The next year, Farm Security Administration photographer Russell Lee showed up for the second holding of the festival, documenting the parades, contests, performances, and excitement of the swelling crowds.