Festival Honorees

Giles Piron - 84th International Rice Festival President

The 84th International Rice Festival has selected Gilles Piron as president to preside over the 2021 festivities. The annual event is the oldest and largest agricultural festival in Louisiana. This year’s festival will be held October 14th to October 17th in downtown Crowley.

Gilles was born in 1961 in Bastogne, Belgium, the town known for the heroic actions of American troops and especially the 101st airborne during The Battle of the Bulge during World War II. The only son of Andre and Alvina Piron, Gilles grew up on the family farm and experienced firsthand the challenges and sacrifices made by all farming communities but also reveled in the successes and pride that comes from working the land.

He attended Bastogne High School before going to College in Arlon where he earned a Master’s degree in Engineering in 1985. Gilles then served as an Intern for the Public Work Ministry a division of the Liege River Meuse. As is was required at that time, he served his home country of Belgium in the Military from 1987 to 1988 and was honorably discharged with the rank Military Police 1st Lieutenant after serving as Detached Platoon Commander stationed in Aachen, Germany. After his service, Gilles was hired by Bouygues Belgium, one of the largest public works company in the world where he supported various teams in bringing successfully to life various cable bridges and other industrial construction projects.

Gilles’ first trip to the Rice Capital of the World came in 1989 on vacation when Crowley was a part of the Codofil Twinning events and cultural exchanges with Vaux-sur-Sure, a Belgium Community in the Province of Luxemburg. During this trip, he met the love of his life and his now wife of 29 years, Ruthie Welch Piron, when the Crowley Town Club re-created the Mardi Gras Ball for Crowley Belgian guests.

He permanently joined our Crowley community in 1991 when he moved from Belgium after he and Ruthie wed. He is the proud father of Alexander, 28, who works at his family business, Rice City Gymnastics, and Andrew, 22, who is a Pre-Med senior at UL of Lafayette, graduating in June of 2020.

Since coming to the United States and eventually becoming a US Citizen, Gilles has been involved in the Oil Industry. He has been employed by Gate, Inc., a consulting firm, for the past 14 years where he serves as pipeline Pre-Commissioning and De-commissioning SME for various Oil Industry Majors. Through his work with Gate, Gilles has recently been given the opportunity to work with Total, a French Oil Company, where he will be involved in a three-year project to support their Mozambique LNG Project for the African Nation.

Gilles’ love for and dedication to the International Rice Festival began almost immediately when he arrived in Crowley. Rice City Gymnastics and his wife, Ruthie, has coached many children throughout the years, allowing them to showcase their talents at the Platforms and in the Parades for many years. In addition to assisting his family and their students, Gilles also worked the beer booth for many years before joining the Main Platform Committee, where he now serves as Chairman. He has also been honored with the ability to serve as a member of the IRF Board of Directors from 2018-2020.

Gilles and his family are looking forward to another successful Festival and would like to express their sincerest thanks to all the volunteers, patrons, vendors and everyone coming to Crowley to celebrate and honor the hard-working men and women of the Rice Industry. There would be no Rice Festival without all of you.


The Gielen Family - 2019 Grand Parade Marshalls

The 83rd International Rice Festival will recognize THE GIELEN FAMILY as the 2019 Grand Parade Honoree of the Year.

Lazar John “L.J.” Gielen, Carol “Chee Chee” Breaux Gielen, and their youngest daughter Kimberly “Kim” Gielen Gattle have been chosen as the 83rd International Rice Festival Grand Parade Marshals.

Selected by IRF President, Deborah Nutt Whiting, L.J., Chee Chee, and Kim were chosen for their continuous contributions to the city of Crowley, the city that they were born, raised, and reside in and the city that they truly love.