by Victoria Hartley-Ellender
It is a tradition that runs deep through the bayous and swamps of Southwest Louisiana. The rich history of pirates, contraband, buccaneers, and cannon fire can be found on street names, at festivals, and within the deep treasuries of local family tales and stories. And on Saturday nights during football season, that old familiar cannon fire comes alive with Cowboy fans, commemorating each and every touchdown in true buccaneer fashion.
Firing the cannons at football games originally began by the Reserve Officers’ Training Corp (ROTC) and continued under the direction of Harry Clark, a Lake Charles Buccaneer Club member. Clark owned several cannons and provided them for use during McNeese home football games. In 2000, the Lake Charles Buccaneer Club purchased Clark’s cannons for permanent use. The Buccaneers have continued preserving the cannon tradition ever since. “We want to keep the tradition alive,” says Mark Lavergne, an active member of the Lake Charles Buccaneer Club since 1994. “Our organization values preserving the traditions for our city, and our Krewe dedicates their hard work and time to provide cannon fire for each game throughout the annual football season.”
Over the years, Lavergne has served many positions within the Buccaneer Club including landing chairman, raid chairman, membership chairman, social chairman, and president. He was chosen this year as the Contraband Days 2017 Jean LaFitte. A lifelong resident of Lake Charles, Lavergne retired from Citgo after 35 years as a maintenance painter. He was a member of Citgo’s volunteer emergency response team and their industrial hygiene emergency response team. As a part of these teams, Lavergne learned many invaluable safety skills which he has incorporated into his leadership of the Lake Charles Buccaneer Club Cannon Krewe.
Every Cannon Krewe member is fully trained in cannon operations safety and fire prevention. They have also attended trainings in blue/gray reenactment processes. The Krewe members dress in full costume attire for each game. A lot of preparation and planning goes into the execution of each football game and each firing of the cannons. The timing is preplanned to coincide with the scoreboard and the MSU band. The cannons must be cleaned and prepped before and after each game. “It requires a lot of time and work from our Krewe but it is all worth it for us because we love supporting our city’s traditions and our football team,” Lavergne said.
Dr. Mike Branch, a member of the Lake Charles Buccaneers, donates the powder for the two cannons that together form the firing sounds of each touchdown. The Cannon Krewe consists of at least 10-12 Krewe members for each game. When the Cowboys win a game, the cannons are fired strategically right when the scoreboard timekeeper flashes zero. If the Cowboys do not win, the cannons are discharged only after the band plays the McNeese Alma Mater.
“It is a very special part of the game and a tradition we are dedicated to preserving for Cowboy fans and for the people of Southwest Louisiana,” Lavergne said.
For more information, please visit www.facebook.com/TheBuccaneersofLakeCharles.com.