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Gonzales is a small city in Ascension Parish, Louisiana, United States. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 9,781. Known as the "Jambalaya Capital of the World", it is famous for its annual Jambalaya Festival, which was first held in 1968. Stephen "Steve" F. Juneau came up with the idea for the Jambalaya Festival and served as the first president of the Jambalaya Festival Association President.
District 59 State Representative Eddie J. Lambert of Ascension Parish practices law in Gonzales, as does State Senator Jody Amedee, who represents Ascension, Livingston, St. James, and St. John the Baptist parishes. Lambert, a Republican in 2004 succeeded former Representative Juba Diez, a Democrat, who held the position since 1976.
Former Gonzales Mayor Johnny Berthelot, a Republican, holds the District 88 seat in the Louisiana House. In 2012, he succeeded Mert Smiley, who was instead elected as the Ascension Parish tax assessor.
Edward Joseph Price, an African-American Democrat and a Gonzales businessman, has held the District 58 House seat for Ascension, Iberville, and St. James parishes since 2012. Another District 58 representative was Melvin Irvin, a black educator and businessman from Gonzales who held the seat from 1984 to 1992. He died in 2014.
State Representative Randal Gaines of St. John the Baptist Parish, formerly resided in Gonzales.
Gonzales is located at 30°13′38″N 90°55′11″W (30.227128, -90.919771).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 8.5 square miles (22.0 km2), of which 8.4 square miles (21.7 km2) is land and 0.12 square miles (0.3 km2), or 1.27%, is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 8,156 people, 2,966 households, and 2,156 families residing in the city. The population density was 974.2 people per square mile (376.2/km²). There were 3,332 housing units at an average density of 398.0 per square mile (153.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 65.40% White, 31.25% African American, 0.22% Native American, 0.61% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 1.64% from other races, and 0.86% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.62% of the population.
There were 2,966 households out of which 36.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.6% were married couples living together, 17.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.3% were non-families. 23.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.68 and the average family size was 3.18.
In the city, the population was spread out with 27.4% under the age of 18, 10.1% from 18 to 24, 30.0% from 25 to 44, 22.3% from 45 to 64, and 10.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 91.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $38,173, and the median income for a family was $43,117. Males had a median income of $38,731 versus $22,168 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,690. About 14.9% of families and 16.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.6% of those under age 18 and 14.5% of those age 65 or over.
The city is governed by a mayor-council. The current mayor of Gonzales is Barney Arceneaux.
Gonzales has a subtropical climate, with hot summers and mild winters. The area is subject to potential severe weather year-round, with snowfall being rare for the city. Hurricanes also pose a threat to the area due to its proximity to the coastline of southeast Louisiana. In September 2008, Hurricane Gustav brought 80+ mph winds to the area with gusts over 100 mph. The last hurricane to strike the area was Hurricane Isaac in August 2012.
Early settlers of the area which would eventually become Gonzales were, for the most part, of Spanish and French ancestry, settling amidst the Houma Indians who lived in the area. By 1851, the small settlement had only ten residents. A school was established in 1855 by Adlard Gautreaux for the children in the area. By 1886, the settlement had grown, and the citizens of the community elected "Big" José Gonzáles as their sheriff. Joseph's son, "Tee-Joe" Gonzales, opened a general store and post office in May 1887. The post office was known as the Gonzales Post Office. A few years later the Railroad Commission ordered the local railroad to change the name of the community from Edenborn to Gonzales to match the post office name.
The center of Gonzales, known as Chips Grocery, came into being in the late 1970s. The previous center was known as the "Fish N Pic".
The railroad assisted in the growth of Gonzales. When the Louisiana Railway and Navigation Company (LR&N) constructed its rail line through the area, there was already a local post office named Gonzales. The rail company executives wanted to name their station there Edenborn after the company's owner, Willam Edenborn. The company also wanted to move the station north of the area to New River, then called Belle Hellene. After local residents filed protests with the Louisiana Railroad Commission, the railroad company was ordered to leave the station at Gonzales. The LR&N still tried to change the name to Edenborn. The residents continued to protest, and were able to get the Louisiana Legislature to pass a law requiring railroad companies to name their railroad stations the same name as that carried by the local post office. Gonzales was laid out and subdivided 1906. It was officially incorporated as a village in 1922 by then Louisiana Governor John Parker with Joseph Gonzales becoming the first mayor. The village continued to grow with the construction of Airline Highway, and Earl K. Long proclaimed Gonzales a town in 1952 during his term as governor. The first Jambalaya Festival was held in 1968, and Governor John J. McKeithen marked the occasion by proclaiming Gonzales the "Jambalaya Capital of the World." Following the growth of industrial corporations in the area, the town finally became a city in 1977 following a proclamation by Governor Edwin Edwards. Gonzales became better known in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina struck. The HSUS and other animal rescue groups along with the National Guard made a fairground in Gonzales their main search and rescue headquarters, as well as the location of storing pets picked up from New Orleans and many other locations. Some people were reunited with their lost pets at this same location.
Gonzales is home to the 922nd Horizontal Engineer Company, which is part of the 769th Engineer Battalion headquartered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This company does "horizontal" construction missions, which in military parlance means it is tasked with building and/or fixing roads. Both these units belong to the 225th Engineer Brigade, which is located at Pineville, Louisiana on Camp Beauregard.
Gonzales has one sister city, as designated by Sister Cities International:
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