84th Festival President named
The 84th International Rice Festival has selected Gilles Piron as president to preside over the 2020 festivities.
The annual event is the oldest and largest agricultural festival in Louisiana. This year’s festival will be held Oct. 15 to 18 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. Piron then served as an intern for the Public Work Ministry, a division of the Liege River Meuse.
As 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, Piron 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.
Piron’s 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 the 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 Lafayette, graduating in June of 2020.
Since coming to the United States and eventually becoming a U.S. citizen, Piron 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, Piron 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.
Piron’s 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, Piron 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.
Piron and his family are looking forward to another successful festival and 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.