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Gonzales family continues tradition of elaborate bonfires

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GONZALES - In a 22-year-old tradition, one Gonzales family builds complex bonfires to bring in the new year.  In the final weeks of the year, you can find Courtney Laiche and his cousins coated in sawdust, busy at work on the latest structure.

"We just started building things and working together as a close knit family, like we are, and just put everything together," Laiche said. 

The planning and prep work starts the day after Thanksgiving with a family camping trip, Laiche says. That weekend, they decide what to build. The 2024 theme is taking inspiration from the workshop.

Laiche says the final product will be a chainsaw. The chainsaw bar is hard wired to turn. Once it's finished, it will be moved to another part of the property to attach on to another structure of the saw. 

The structures weren't always so elaborate. The first bon fires were left over branches and brush piled into the yard. Laiche admitted that wasn't much fun. 

"We were much younger then," he said. 

Every year since, they've made an effort to raise the bar, or log. In 2020, the family paid tribute to the less than fantastic year with a wood worked dumpster. 

Cody Duplessis is apart of the family and team that builds the fires each year. 

"It kind of just started out as something for fun, and then we kept challenging ourselves," Duplessis said. "We decided let's try to do something nice. People expect it. So you've kind of got to keep with it."

So for two decades, the week after Christmas, the flames and fireworks keep going. 

"For the most part it's just about being with family. You don't have to worry about bringing gifts for this kid or these people, you know. It's just more relaxed atmosphere than Christmas honestly I feel. It's something I enjoy," Laiche said.

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