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Just Plain Fun

Christmas Eve bonfire tradition burns with creativity in Garyville



This 78-foot alligator will be set ablaze on Christmas Eve. All photos from the Blood, Sweat and Bonfires Facebook page.

Folks in Garyville, La., have a unique Christmas tradition that their children’s children will surely learn about in years to come.

Every year for about 20 years now, Josh Weidert and his friends get together to build a bonfire to set ablaze on Christmas Eve. But these aren’t run-of-the-mill big stacks of wood. These wooden creations are works of art.

This year, the bonfire creation is a 78-foot-long alligator.

Weidert, 33, is keeping a Louisiana tradition alive and “lighting a way for Papa Noel … down the foggy Mississippi River,” he told CNN. The centuries-old custom is celebrated in numerous communities up and down the river. In St. James Parish, more than 100 fires will be lit at one-hour intervals.

But few bonfires are constructed as intricately as the Garyville creations. In past years, the group has built a pelican, a snapping turtle, a guitar and even a Saints football helmet.

Click to enlarge

The group settles on the design when it “rings a bell with everybody,” Weidert said. The goal is to complete the build in about three weeks in their spare time. This year’s massive alligator took exactly 21 days.

The alligator will be set ablaze around 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 24, and the fire should burn until well past midnight and into Christmas morning.

For more information and to see more photos, visit the Blood, Sweat and Bonfires Facebook page.

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Vicksburg Daily News