Mercedes-Benz Superdome holds the first annual King Cake Festival
A New Orleans Comic Con attendee browses through a selection of posters. Lovers of science fiction and comic books packed the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center for the event from Jan. 7 through Jan. 9. LAUREN PATTON/The Maroon
There is a new reason to celebrate the carnival season this year.
Oschner Health Systems partnered with local bakeries in the New Orleans area for the first annual King Cake Festival that supports the hospital's pediactrics unit.
The event brought in 12,000 people to sample king cakes from 22 bakeries.
The idea came from two Oschner employees' participation in the fellowship program. One of the fellows moved to New Orleans just one year ago. She fell in love with king cake and thought the city needed a king cake festival. The women are co-workers of Tiffany Henriques, who graduated from Loyola in 2010 and is the current fellow of Oschner's Finance Department.
The three employees combined to originate the idea that became the first King Cake Festival in New Orleans.
Henriques said the women pitched the idea to their company's philanthropy partner along with the thought of having some of the proceeds go to the pediatrics unit.
"A group of employees in Ochsner's fellowship program approached our philanthropy department with the idea of a festival celebrating king cake − that would benefit the babies treated at Ochsner. And from there, King Cake Festival was born," Kathleen McCulla, Director of Events at Ochsner Health System, said.
The festival welcomed bakeries from across the Greater New Orleans area, who agreed to donate twenty percent of their proceeds to support Oschner.
"We had 22 bakeries come and we are thankful for them. We hope to have more next year," Henriques said.
Wendy Lehman, business management senior, attended the King Cake Festival after reading about the event online.
"I really wanted to go, not only because I love king cake and carnival season, but because the proceeds helped out Oschner," Lehman said.
Lehman said the voting system was very clever because she was visually able to see which venders had the most votes, before even waiting in line.
"It really helped identify who had the best king cake," Lehman said.
Haydel's Bakery came out on top with the most fan votes after the festival's end.
The festival also featured a one-mile stroller fun run around the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, live music and an area exclusively for kids.
This one-of-a-kind festival plans to be back next year with the support of Oschner.
"We can't wait until next year. I think we've got a great response to keep this going," Henriques said.
Lauren Cutuli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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