In 1990, David Bourdier founded the Patterson Cypress Sawmill Festival to raise money to help build a museum. The first festival was held in 1991 at Kemper Williams Park. Carol Vinning, Frank Guarisco, Charles Campbell, Derrick Jennings, C.C. Stewart, and Greg Price were the first festival volunteers.
There were many problems associated with this site such as no electrical power and water. Cleco installed light poles and a transformer on their main power line. Each year, Cleco would come and run the overhead power lines and return to take them down. Cameron donated large floodlights; Greg Price loaned electrical wiring and assisted in wiring the booths. St. Joseph’s Catholic Church provided the booths and Williams, Inc. provided lights for some of the tents and booths. The St. Mary Parish Council gave $5,000 to help with the start-up cost. The second year the Board requested and received $10,000 from the Parish.
In 1993, the weather was so cold and windy, it blew down the Arts and Crafts tents. Rebel Amusements asked the Board to hold the festival again the following weekend. They agreed. This proved to the community that the Board was serious about creating a good, family-oriented festival.
In 1995, Cleco donated and installed underground wiring for the festival. The cost of the job was $25,000. This donation made the park useable for other functions as well.
The festival has grown over the years to be one of the Top Twenty Events in the Southern Tourism Society. The festival has won many awards and honors over the years including Festival of the Year and a marketing award for its “Wooden Koozies”. Holding the festival at Kemper Williams Park has resulted in the park being awarded many grants to expand.
The dream of opening a cypress sawmill museum took a giant step in 2003 when the Board of Directors of the Wedell-Williams Memorial Foundation joined hands with the Cypress Sawmill Foundation to build a single edifice with separate galleries to preserve the history of both the aviation and sawmill industries of Patterson. This was great news for festival-goers in 2006 as a tour of the Wedell-Williams Aviation & Cypress Sawmill Museum became a major added attraction to the many festivals activities.
The Board of Directors take pride in their family-oriented festival and will continue to work on upgrading and promoting the festival in order to support the museum, which is filled with memories that preserve the history of cypress and aviation in Louisiana, as well as to sponsor educational exhibits and programs throughout the year.