|Coordinates: 30°12′N 90°55′W / 30.2°N 90.91°W|
|Named for||Ascension of Jesus Christ|
|• Total||303 sq mi (780 km2)|
|• Land||290 sq mi (800 km2)|
|• Water||13 sq mi (30 km2) 3.75%|
|• Density||420/sq mi (160/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC−6 (Central)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−5 (CDT)|
|Congressional districts||2nd, 6th|
Ascension Parish (French: Paroisse de l'Ascension, Spanish: Parroquia de Ascensión) is a parish located in the U.S. state of Louisiana. As of the 2020 census, the population was 126,500. Its parish seat is Donaldsonville. The parish was created in 1807. Ascension Parish is part of the Baton Rouge metropolitan statistical area.
Ascension Parish is one of the 22 parishes that make up Acadiana, the heartland of the Cajun people and their culture. This is exhibited by the prevalence of the French or Cajun French language heard throughout the parish, as well as the many festivals celebrated by its residents, including the Boucherie Festival, Lagniappe Music and Seafood Festival, Crawfish Festival, and the Jambalaya Festival. The largest incorporated city in Ascension Parish, Gonzales, is celebrated as the "Jambalaya Capital of the World".
Early European settlers of the area that was developed as Ascension and Gonzales were, for the most part, of French and Spanish ancestry. They settled among the Houma Indians who lived in the area.
Among the projects and plans carried out by Luis de Unzaga 'le Conciliateur' while he was governor of Louisiana between 1769 and 1777 was the promotion of new settlements by Europeans, among them were French Acadians and Malaga in the fertile Mississippi region and more specifically in the Unzaga Post or 'Puesto de Unzaga' that he created in 1771 in Pointe Coupee, the parish of Saint Gabriel in 1773 and Fort Manchac in 1776; the Ascension people occupied land at the confluence of the aforementioned European settlements.
During the historic 2016 Louisiana Floods, around one-third of all homes in Ascension Parish were flooded; 15,000 homes and businesses took on water, mostly in the Galvez-St. Amant area, prompting a visit to St. Amant by then-presidential candidate, Donald J. Trump.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the parish has a total area of 303 square miles (780 km2), of which 290 square miles (750 km2) is land and 13 square miles (34 km2) (4.2%) is water. It is the fourth-smallest parish in Louisiana by total area.
|U.S. Decennial Census|
|Black or African American (non-Hispanic)||30,296||23.95%|
|Hispanic or Latino||10,383||8.21%|
In 1810, the parish had a population of 2,219; since then, its population has steadily increased despite some decades of population decline. In 1900, the parish's population reached a first historic high of 24,142 before increasing again to 58,214 at the 1990 U.S. census. At the 2010 census, Ascension Parish's population grew to 107,215; and at the 2020 United States census, there were 126,500 people, 44,267 households, and 32,305 families residing in the parish.
Having historic settlement by French and Spanish colonials during the periods of French and Spanish Louisiana, Ascension Parish's racial and ethnic composition has remained predominantly non-Hispanic white throughout a portion of its history. With the greater diversification of the United States at the 2020 census, non-Hispanic white residents were 62.96% of the total population. Black or African American Louisianians and others made up 23.95% of the population, followed by Hispanics or Latinos of any race (8.21%), Asians (1.33%), multiracial Americans (3.32%), Native Americans (0.21%), and Pacific Islanders (0.03%).
Among its residents at the 2021 American Community Survey's 1-year estimates program, households had a median income of $72,662 and mean income of $92,143. Families had a median income of $85,632; married-couple families $111,445; and non-family households $32,498. Overall, residents of Ascension Parish are wealthier than nearby East Baton Rouge Parish.
Religiously and spiritually, Christianity is the dominant religion for the parish. According to the Association of Religion Data Archives in 2020, the Roman Catholic Church was the single-largest Christian denomination for the parish, served primarily by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge. The overall Catholic population in Ascension Parish was 39,260 in 2020. Non-denominational or inter-denominational Christian churches—whether independent Bible churches, United and Uniting, etc.—were the second largest Christian group in the parish with 9,430 members. Collectively, Baptists throughout the Southern Baptist Convention, Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship, and National Baptist Convention of America made up 5,043 religious adherents. Parish-wide Protestant statistics reflect an increase in non- or inter-denominational Christianity throughout Louisiana, outgrowing Methodism as the second-largest Protestant group for the state per the Association of Religion Data Archives 2020 religion census; the growth of non/inter-denominational Christianity for the area represented a broader trend nationwide, where the movement began to constitute the largest segment of American Protestantism.
Ascension Parish School Board operates the local public schools. The parish is also home to private schools and—since 1998, to River Parishes Community College.
Two newspapers are based in Ascension Parish's two cities, Donaldsonville and Gonzales. The Gonzales Weekly Citizen is a bi-weekly newspaper formed after the merger of The Gonzales Weekly (founded 1920) and The Ascension Citizen (founded 1996). The Donaldsonville Chief, founded in 1871, is the parish's longest-continually-published newspaper.
On March 8, 2017, Ascension Parish President Kenneth Paul "Kenny" Matassa (born September 12, 1949), a Republican, along with Olin Glenn Berthelot (born August 1948), a Democratic businessman from Gonzales, faced indictment in an attempted bribery scheme. The pair is charged with encouraging a candidate to withdraw from a local election on November 8, 2016.
The grand jury released its true bill to Judge Tess Stromberg of the 23rd Judicial District Court in Ascension, Assumption, and St. James parishes. Among those who testified in the case were Democratic Gonzales City Council member Neal Bourqueat. Matassa and Berthelot allegedly bribed the Democrat A. Wayne Lawson with offers of money and a government job to drop out of the city council race in Division E against Bourque, who nevertheless won reelection with 61 percent of the ballots cast.
Matassa and Berthelot turned themselves in to authorities and posted a $5,000 bond. Reports, meanwhile, surfaced of a move before the parish council calling for Matassa to resign. He cannot be forced from the office, however, unless convicted of the crime. Matassa and Berthelot could have received up to two years in state prison either with or without hard time and/or a fine of $2,000. Matassa was instead acquitted in July 2018 of the election bribery allegations and returned to his duties as parish president with a legal cloud lifted from his shoulders.
The 922nd Engineer Company (Horizontal), a unit of the 769th Engineer Battalion and the 225th Engineer Brigade. The 1021st Vertical Engineer Company also resides in Gonzales, Louisiana.