The lighting of the bonfires on the levee in St. James and St. John the Baptist Parishes has been a long-standing Christmas Eve tradition. This year, a giant snapping turtle called “Snapper Claus” is gaining a lot of attention among the dozens of bonfire structures lining the levee.
While many residents build a more traditional bonfire structure, each year the designs get more elaborate, due in part to Joshua Weidert of Garyville and his Blood, Sweat and Bonfires crew.
Weidert and his friends have been building bonfires on the levee for nearly 20 years. Some might remember their giant crawfish with moving pinchers which was set ablaze in 2016. This year the group decided to top their crawfish structure with their greatest design to date.
Weidert said they came up with the idea for the new snapping turtle structure during a bonfire meeting.
“We were cooking food, drinking beer and we shot a few ideas around. We had two ideas, drew it up and picked the snapping turtle,” Weidert said.
The snapping turtle took one month to build with nearly 12 people working on building the structure intermittently throughout the month. The total project took about 150 hours to complete. The massive structure even has a retracting head and mouth that snaps.
“We played with the idea of moving parts on the bonfire with the crawfish last year, and we wanted to do it again this year,” Weidert said. “So we came up with this idea and a plan to make it work and made it happen.”
Surprisingly, no one in this group is an engineer or an architect –just a group of extremely talented friends. Weidert said his group even sources the materials themselves from nearby wooded areas.
Blood, Sweat and Tears will, of course, have to say goodbye to their massive masterpiece when the official synchronized lighting happens on Sunday at 7 p.m. However, Weidert says he’s prepared to see it go up in flames.
“We know beforehand what we’re building, and we’re burning it. So it’s really not that bad,” Weidert said. “We think of it as a wedding cake. You make it pretty, but in the end, you know it’s going to get eaten.”
The turtle, which Weidert has affectionately referred to as “Snapper Claus,” and other structures on the levee will be set ablaze on Christmas Eve at 7 p.m., weather permitting.
Video courtesy: Charles Daigle and Blood, Sweat and Bonfires
You may also like: