A historic town, nestled into the bayous and swamps of south Louisiana, it is the parish seat of St. Mary. Bayou Teche runs through it. Franklin has a wonderful historic district encompassing Main Street, with more than 400 registered properties. The city was once called “a little Natchez” in a major travel magazine.
The mission of the bear festival is to educate the citizens of St. Mary Parish and the surrounding area about the Louisiana black bear, a species listed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as “threatened” under the guidelines of the Endangered Species Act. The festival features all the activities associated with a typical Louisiana festival, music, food, and good company, but also includes field trips, educational exhibits and children’s activities relating to bears and the many other natural resources found in south Louisiana. The Black Bear Conservation Committee (BBCC), a diverse coalition formed to lead the effort to restore bear populations, is the primary force behind the festival. In the past, endangered species have been perceived as a liability to landowners, economic development, and rural communities. This festival is an effort to create an environment where the bear can serve as a tool for economic development. Festival organizers are working to show that bears are an asset to St. Mary Parish and that they can help stimulate a healthy nature based tourism industry. The recent establishment of the Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge should help build a foundation for this type of economic development. Birding on the St. Mary Loop, which is part of the America’s Wetland Birding Trail, has been incorporated into the Festival.