A Guide to Festivals

April and October are the busiest months for festivals in Louisiana, but there are activities throughout the calendar. In a sense, “festival season” here is a year-round phenomenon. Whether you want to dance in New Orleans, eat peach pie in Ruston or ride a Ferris wheel in Shreveport, Louisiana has hundreds of festivals that cater to all sorts of interests and celebrate our culture.

A FAIR TO REMEMBER

The State Fair of Louisiana in Shreveport - By Bernard Frugé III

It was a gray, overcast November day as we approached the Red River on Interstate 20. I had purposefully been fasting all day and was ravenous after the five-hour drive from New Orleans. I was on a mission. My primary objective: Eat every food item offered at the State Fair of Louisiana.

I have lived in Louisiana since I was 7 years old, but this was my first time in Shreveport. Shreveport and Bossier City are divided by the Red River, about 20 miles east of Texas and 40 miles south of Arkansas. Shreveport draws cultural influences from both – enter a sports bar on any given Sunday and you’ll find about as many Cowboys fans as Saints fans. You’ll also find actual cowboys. Shreveport is cowboy country, and has a far more western flair than the Cajun country I hail from.


jordan haro photos

The State Fair of Louisiana itself shares this cowboy vibe, featuring two-and-a-half weeks of country music concerts, livestock shows and a proper rodeo. But if you’re not a Western enthusiast, there are breakdancers, zoo animals and the usual state fair suspects, such as rides and carnival games.  

My photographer and I wandered around for 20 minutes overwhelmed by all of the choices. There were too many food vendors, too many interesting goings on. We passed no fewer than four booths claiming to contain “the smallest horse in the world.” We eventually stumbled across a gathered crowd and blaring electro-funk music interlaced with sound bytes from Nixon and LBJ. Upon further inspection, it was a dancer telling the story of the Vietnam War through breakdance. We watched, amazed, as he six-stepped around landmines and windmilled away from machine gun fire. After that, we watched a few songs of a country western band that covered ’80s pop music, namely Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is” and A-Ha’s “Take on Me.” The Louisiana State Fair was proving to be a mixed bag of fun, eclectic activities.


jordan haro photos

We had time to kill before headliner Wayne Toups took the stage, so after feeding a carrot to a giraffe in the zoo area, we headed to the food vendor with the largest menu we could find. We decided on Porky’s BBQ, due to the huge selection, and ordered the following: a bacon cheeseburger on a doughnut, bloomin’ onion, Rocky Mountain oysters (which are bull testicles), fried ribs, fried watermelon, fried green beans, pulled pork and a basket of “baconaters.” For better or worse, Porky’s was out of Rocky Mountain oysters.

The odd thing about a doughnut bacon cheeseburger is the cheese. There simply aren’t many chances in life for a person to become accustomed to melted American cheese and icing entering into the same bite of food. But if you can get past this mental barrier, it’s delicious; don’t use condiments, because that is inarguably weird if your bun is a doughnut. The watermelon came in fried cubic chunks topped in maple syrup and was very tasty if you could maneuver the fried batter into not falling off before you could take a bite. Baconaters are bacon wrapped around cheese, deep-fried and covered in syrup. They taste great.

Before our cardiovascular systems could completely shut down, we waddled over to the fried Oreo truck to observe and consume their craft. I had never tried a fried Oreo before and they are incredible. The cookie becomes squishy inside of the sizzling batter, and the taste and texture are entirely different from eating a regular Oreo. You bite through the crispy batter into the melting cookie and you instantly realize that this preparation is the highest form of Oreo consumption.


jordan haro photos

After watching my photographer lose $20 in 15 seconds at a carnival game, we capped off our evening with the Wayne Toups performance. As full and tired as we were, Toups really knows how to energize an audience, and we were dancing around despite ourselves. I’m not sure if the attendees were used to rock-infused Zydeco music, but they responded very strongly and he played a raucous two-hour set.  

The beauty of Shreveport-Bossier is that after the fair, the grownups can tuck the kids in and hit the casinos for late night entertainment. While our casino adventures go beyond the purview of this article, it is worth mentioning that there is more to a weekend in Shreveport than the Louisiana State Fair alone. Whether you come with your family or just a few friends for a weekend road trip, the fair is a great getaway option that doesn’t involve having to leave the state. Here are two related pieces of advice. First, eat fried Oreos and doughnut burgers. Second, bring Tums.

Information, statefairoflouisiana.com



andrew macaluso photo

SLICE OF LIFE

Ruston’s Louisiana Peach Festival - By Karl Hasten

In 1947, Lincoln Parish peach growers formed the Louisiana Peach Growers Association, and by 1951 they decided to promote the growing industry by staging an event that would draw Louisianians, as well as travelers from surrounding states. The inaugural event was held on June 27-28, 1951 and consisted of a “Peaches and Posies” flower show, a peach cooking contest, an art show, several athletic competitions and the crowning of the first Queen Dixie Gem and Princess Peach. Today the Louisiana Peach Festival remains one of the largest continuing festivals in Louisiana – as well as one of its most beloved.

If you really want to celebrate the peach in all its glory, there is no better place than Ruston, located in the northern part of the state. The parish seat of Lincoln Parish and home to Louisiana Tech, it is a lovely town with a 2012 census population of just under 22,000 residents.

The Louisiana Peach Festival, held annually on the fourth Saturday in June, is a family-oriented event sponsored by the Ruston-Lincoln Chamber of Commerce. The 2014 festival dates are Friday and Saturday, June 27 and 28. Admission for attendees age 7 and up is $10 for Friday’s concert, $5 on Saturday from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m., and $10 for Saturday’s concert. A $10 armband will be offered and will cover all events on Saturday. Pets are not allowed on the festival grounds, with the exception of service dogs.


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Success through the years is certainly attributable to strong community support. In 1983, the festival became jointly sponsored by the Ruston Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau. For the festival’s 50th anniversary in 2000, CenturyTel became the events first corporate sponsor, and since 2003 Squire Creek Country Club has been a corporate sponsor.

Entertainers through the years have included such illustrious names as soul legend Percy Sledge, Austin music star Marcia Ball, country music group Shenandoah, bluegrass virtuoso Ricky Skaggs and the timeless R&B star Irma Thomas. Opening night in 2014 will feature the eclectic talents of The Molly Ringwalds. This popular group hailing from Sheffield, England, is billed as “the ultimate ’80s experience.”

Saturday night the festival will proudly present two Louisiana natives: zydeco master Chubby Carrier and rising country artist Dylan Scott.

Carrier, born in Churchpoint, began his musical career at the age of 12. Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band have recorded 10 albums over the past 22 years. At the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards, Chubby and the Bayou Swamp Band won Best Zydeco Or Cajun Music Album for Zydeco Junkie.

Dylan Scott is from Bastrop. By the age of 12, he was proficient on acoustic guitar and dreaming of a future on stage. In high school he performed with the gospel trio, 11th Hour, traveling throughout the South to appear at fairs, festivals and churches. His new self-titled album features five modern, progressive songs and was produced by Music City legend Jim Ed Norman.

One of the major participants in the festival for many seasons is Mitcham Farms, the largest peach orchard in Louisiana. In operation since 1946, Mitcham Farms has over 12,000 trees and ships their peaches and peach products nationwide. Their pre-made baskets and gift boxes are always available during the festival and can be customized to anyone’s taste. Tour groups are always welcome at the Mitcham Farms; call ahead to check availability and processing times.


michael welch photos

“The Louisiana Peach Festival represents a real boom in economic development for us at Mitcham as well as the whole area. The two days of the festival are our busiest of the year as the festival drives traffic to our facility looking for orchard tours and buying peaches, peach preserves, jams and jellies, as well as excellent fudge,” says Debbie Otwell, Sales Manager at Mitcham Farms.

“Besides the exciting musical acts, there will be a wide array of special events that will please crowds of all ages. A Diaper Derby and Baby Photo Contest will please parents of the very young,” says Ivana Flowers, Communications and Events Coordinator at the Ruston Lincoln Chamber of Commerce. The Farmers Market will be open both days of the event, and an arts and crafts show will draw art lovers until 6 p.m. on Saturday. The festival parade will begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday with a Pet Parade. An antique car show will also be held at the Bancorp South location on Saturday.

Information, louisianapeachfestival.org.



cheryl gerber photos

ALL THAT JAZZ

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell - By Sarah Ravits

I first attended the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell while in college at Tulane. I got tipsy from one beer and ate cheesy crawfish bread. I really should say that I experienced crawfish bread, because it was possibly the most heavenly item I’ve ever snacked on – and it was much-needed after dancing so much. It’s the kind of food that fills your entire body with joy, like you just ate a little piece of heaven. Besides the music, Jazz Fest is consistently hailed for its cuisine – food for your soul.

When I was a student, Jazz Fest always took place right before finals and served as another kind of difficult test, a test to our willpower (spoiler alert: a lot of 18- to 22-year-olds have none). Would we choose to stay in with our books, laptops and class notes, or would we listen to the dancing devils on our shoulders urging us to hitch a ride to the New Orleans Fair Grounds to see where all the magic happens?

A lot of us, as you can guess, picked the latter, because New Orleans, with its thousands of visitors, long-time residents and transplants alike, is a city that prioritizes its celebrations. I can’t even count how many people I’ve met over the years who have confessed that they “came down to go to Jazz Fest and never left.” It is alluring and inspiring to be around so much music and art.

And that’s really what is at the heart of Jazz Fest – it is a jubilant, massive annual celebration, and it is about to turn 45.


cheryl gerber photos

Founded by George Wein, (the same producer and music promoter who also started the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island) the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival began outside the French Quarter in New Orleans’ Congo Square. It drew a few hundred people and featured four stages of a New Orleans-centric lineup that included the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Duke Ellington, Pete Fountain, the Meters, Ellis Marsalis – some of whom, like the Preservation Hall band (which has changed members but maintains its roots) as well as Marsalis, still perform at the fest today.

Nowadays the festival is held at the New Orleans Fair Grounds in the city’s Gentilly neighborhood, a spot that’s normally reserved for horse racing. It’s a massive, open space that accommodates several hundred thousand people over the span of seven days every spring, rain or shine. There are 12 music stages, catered to specific genres – the Jazz Tent, Blues Tent and Gospel Tent are smaller, while the Acura stage hosts the internationally known celebrity headliners, such as Bruce Springsteen this year. Jazz Fest also hosts a range of arts and crafts booths with vendors from all over the world, and there are also designated tents and areas for children, as well. A highlight this year will be its International Pavilion, which is hosting artists and educators from Brazil.


cheryl gerber photos

Despite its major headlining acts, what separates Jazz Fest from other huge music festivals, like the younger Bonnaroo in rural Tennessee or Coachella in the desert east of Los Angeles, is that it not only has remained true to its roots of local music, but it also takes place within the city, so festival-goers can easily go catch a night show at a nearby, but unaffiliated, music club after the festival is over for the day.

Much like New Orleans’ other massive cultural event, Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest unites the whole city in celebration, and music can be seen, heard and felt across town.

At least 80 percent of the musicians hail from Louisiana each year. Here you can catch New Orleans brass bands, jazz lounge singers, Mardi Gras Indians, Cajun fiddlers, Zydeco groups and much more. The lineup this year is diverse as usual – performers include Eric Clapton, Arcade Fire, Santana, Aaron Neville, John Fogerty, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas and hundreds more.

Like many residents of New Orleans, I’ve been lured to the city by its culture, specifically the music and its celebratory nature, and that is what will continue to keep me coming to Jazz Fest year after year. I don’t have to worry about skipping finals anymore, but I’ll probably leave work early.

Bring sunscreen and cash and be prepared to sweat if the sun’s out, and be prepared to dance in the mud if it rains.

Information, nojazzfest.com


January

Louisiana Fur and Wildlife Festival, Cameron
Battle of New Orleans Commemoration, Chalmette
Martin Luther King, Jr. Festival, Lake Charles


March

Louisiana Redbud Festival, Vivian
Bloomin’ on the Bricks, Natchitoches
Hammond Smokin’ Blues & BBQ Challenge, Hammond
The Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, New Orleans
Louisiana Crawfish Festival, Chalmette
Irish, Italian, Isleños Fiesta, Chalmette
New Orleans Sacred Music Festival, New Orleans
Jane Austen Literary Festival, Mandeville
FoodFest (America’s Hometown Eats), New Orleans
Merryville Heritage Festival, Merryville
Terrytown Spring Festival, Terrytown
Soul Fest, New Orleans
Louisiana Nursery Festival, Forest Hill
Congo Square Rhythms Festival, New Orleans
Black Heritage Festival, Lake Charles
Iowa Rabbit Festival, Iowa
NOLA Pyrate Week, New Orleans
Zfest, Zachary
Independence Sicilian Heritage Festival, Independence
Laotian New Year, Broussard
Audubon Pilgrimage, St. Francisville
Hogs for the Cause, New Orleans
Week New Orleans, New Orleans
Wednesday at the Square, New Orleans
New Orleans International Beer Festival, New Orleans
Amite Oyster Festival, Amite
Swamp Stomp Festival, Thibodaux
Zapp’s International Beer Festival, Baton Rouge


April

Acadiana Dragon Boat Festival, New Iberia
French Quarter Festival, New Orleans
Family Fun Fest, Larose
Fête Française, New Orleans
Southdown Marketplace Spring Arts & Crafts Festival, Houma
Cultural Crossroads Spring Arts Festival, Minden
Boggy Bayou Festival, Pine Prarie
Cajun Hot Sauce Festival, New Iberia
Grand Isle Migratory Bird Festival, Grand Isle
Cajun Woodstock for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Church Point
Bayou Teche Black Bear and Birding Festival, Franklin
Franklin Parish Catfish Festival, Winnsboro
Scottish Tartan Festival, Minden
Jazz in the Park, New Orleans
Italian Festival, Tickfaw
Natchitoches Jazz/R&B Festival, Natchitoches
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, New Orleans
Italian Heritage Festival (Festa Italiana), Kenner
Old Algiers RiverFest, New Orleans (Algiers)
Louisiana Forest Festival, Winnfield
Holiday in Dixie, Shreveport
Plaquemine Pow-Wow, Plaquemine
Angola Prison Spring Rodeo, Angola
Louisiana Railroad Days Festival, DeQuincy
FestForAll, Baton Rouge
Denham Springs Antique District Spring Festival, Denham Springs
Great Louisiana BirdFest, Mandeville
Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival, Ponchatoula
Festival International de Louisiane, Lafayette
DeltaFest, Monroe
Baton Rouge Blues Festival, Baton Rouge
North Louisiana Spring Bluegrass Festival, Oak Grove
Freret Street Festival, New Orleans
Etoufee Festival, Arnaudville
Houmapalooza Spring Music Festival, Houma
Le Festival du Bon Temps a’ Broussard, Broussard
Rhythms on the River, Morgan City
Scott Boudin Festival, Scott
Melrose Arts Festival, Melrose
Battle of Pleasant Hill Annual Reenactment and Festival, Pleasant Hill
Louisiana Earth Day, Baton Rouge
Cypress Sawmill Festival, Patterson
Kite Fest Louisiane, Port Allen


May

Greater New Orleans International Dragon Boat Festival, Madisonville
Bunk Johnson Jazz Festival, New Iberia
Sunset Herb and Garden Festival, Sunset
Mayfest, Leesville
Poke Salad Festival, Blanchard
Thibodaux Firemen’s Fair, Thibodaux
Saints and Sinners Literary Festival, New Orleans
Zydeco Extravaganza, Opelousas
Bayou Country Superfest, Baton Rouge
Zwolle Loggers and Forestry Festival, Zwolle
Plaquemines Parish Seafood Festival, Belle Chasse
Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, Breaux Bridge
Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo, New Orleans
New Orleans Wine & Food Experience, New Orleans
Heflin Sawmill Festival, Heflin
Contraband Days-Louisiana Pirate Festival, Lake Charles
Starks Mayhaw Festival, Starks
Tomato Festival, Chalmette
Cochon de Lait Festival, Mansura
Mudbug Maddness, Shreveport
Greek Festival New Orleans, New Orleans
Jambalaya Festival, Gonzales
Marion Mayhaw Festival, Marion
Riverboat Festival, Columbia
Jeff Fish Fest & Rodeo, River Ridge


June

Lake Arthur Regatta, Lake Arthur
New Orleans Loving Festival, New Orleans
FestiGals, New Orleans
Lacombe Crab Festival, Lacombe
Bon Mangé Festival, Gheens
Church Point Buggy Festival, Church Point
Louisiana Bicycle Festival, Abita Springs
Back to the Beach Festival, Kenner
Bluesberry Festival, Lafayette
Uplifting the Coast Festival, Baton Rouge
Louisiana Catfish Festival, Des Allemands
Wednesdays on the Point, New Orleans (Algiers)
New Orleans Oyster Festival, New Orleans
Louisiana Peach Festival, Ruston
French Market’s Creole Tomato Festival, New Orleans
Garden Fest, Baton Rouge
Beauregard Watermelon Festival, DeRidder
The Day the War Stopped, St. Francisville
Louisiana Corn Festival, Bunkie
Let the Good Times Roll Festival, Shreveport
Smoked Meat Festival, Ville Platte
Southern Fried Swamp Fest, New Orleans
Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival, New Orleans
Lake Arthur Freedom Fest, Lake Arthur
Juneteenth Folklife Celebration, Opelousas


July

Tales of the Cocktail, New Orleans
Cajun Music & Food Festival, Lake Charles
Running of the Bulls (San Fermin in Nueva Orleans), New Orleans
Bucktown Bash, Metairie
Mandeville City Seafood Fest, Mandeville
Cake and Ice Cream Festival, Abbeville
Bayou BBQ Bash – “Morgan City Under the Bridge,” Morgan City
Celebration on the Cane, Natchitoches
Marshland Festival, Lake Charles
Erath Fourth of July Celebration, Erath
Swamp Pop Music Festival, Gonzales
Let Freedom Ring Festival, Thibodaux
Feliciana Hummingbird Celebration, St. Francisville
Lebeau Zydeco Festival, Lebeau
Louisiana Watermelon Festival, Farmerville
Natchitoches/NSU Folk Festival, Natchitoches
Essence Festival, New Orleans
Golden Meadow-Fourchon International Tarpon Rodeo, Golden Meadow-Port Fourchon
Slidell Heritage Festival, Slidell
Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo, Grand Isle


August

Dirty Linen Night, New Orleans
Delcambre Shrimp Festival, Delcambre
French Film Fest, New Orleans
Whitney White Linen Night, New Orleans
Satchmo SummerFest, New Orleans
Polos & Pearls, St. Francisville
Red Dress Run, New Orleans
Gueydan Duck Festival, Gueydan
Original Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Music Festival, Opelousas (Plaisance)
MOLA Music Fest, Monroe
Arts & Crabs Fest, Lake Charles
Le Cajun Music Awards and Festival, Lafayette


September

Southern Decadence, New Orleans
Natchitoches Meat Pie Festival, Natchitoches
Best of the Bayou, Houma
Germantown Bluegrass Festival, Minden
Louisiana Shrimp & Petroleum Festival, Morgan City
Calca-Chew Food Festival, Lake Charles
Bogalusa Blues & Heritage Festival, Bogalusa
Louisiana Sugar Cane Festival, New Iberia
Sugar Festival, Arabi
St. Theresa Bon Ton Festival, Carlyss
New Orleans Burlesque Festival, New Orleans
Bayou Lafourche Antique Show, Thibodaux
Alligator Festival, Luling
St. Martinville Kiwanis Pepper Festival, St. Martinville
Jim Bowie Festival & BBQ Throwdown, Vidalia
Louisiana Chicken Festival, Dubach
Oldies But Goodies Fest & BBQ Cook-Off, Port Allen
Louisiana Hot Air Balloon Championship Festival, Gonzales


October

Ragley Heritage & Timber Festival, Ragley
Cal-Cam Fair, Sulphur
State Fair of Louisiana, Shreveport
Andouille Festival, LaPlace
Opelousas Spice and Music Festival, Opelousas
Voice of the Wetlands, Houma
Louisiana Cattle Festival, Abbeville
Harvest Festival on False River, New Roads
Zwolle Tamale Fiesta, Zwolle
Oktoberfest, Kenner
Louisiana Gumbo Festival of Chackbay, Chackbay/Thibodaux
Bridge City Gumbo Festival, Bridge City
International Heritage Celebration, Baton Rouge
Black Pot Festival and Cook-Off, Lafayette
Louisiana Seafood Festival, New Orleans
Ponderosa Stomp Festival, New Orleans
North Louisiana Fall Bluegrass Festival, Oak Grove
Springhill Lumberjack Festival, Springhill
Red River Revel, Shreveport
Oak Alley Plantation Fall Arts and Crafts Festival, Vacherie
Yellow Leaf Arts Festival, St. Francisville
Denham Springs Antique District Fall Festival, Denham Springs
International Rice Festival, Crowley
Old Farmers Day Festival, Loranger
Greater Baton Rouge State Fair, Baton Rouge
Angola Prison Fall Rodeo, Angola
New Orleans Film Festival, New Orleans
Sweet Dough Pie Festival, Grand Coteau
French Food Festival, Larose
Louisiana Yambilee Festival, Opelousas
Blues in da Parish Festival, Violet
Gretna Heritage Festival, Gretna
Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival, New Orleans
Roberts Cove Germanfest, Rayne (Roberts Cove)
Madisonville Wooden Boat Festival, Madisonville
Book Sale Friends of the Jefferson Public Library, Metairie
Louisiana Cotton Festival, Ville Patte
Cajun Heritage Festival, Larose
Fesitvals Acadiens et Créoles, Lafayette
Louisiana Art and Folk Festival, Columbia
Violet Oyster Festival, Violet
October Fete, Kaplan
Louisiana Tournoi, Ville Platte
Franklin Harvest Moon Festival, Franklin
Rapides Parish Fair, Alexandria
West Louisiana Forestry Festival & Fair, Leesville
St. Tammany Parish Fair, Covington
Voodoo Music + Art Experience, New Orleans


November

Louisiana Indian Heritage Association Powwow, Gonzales
Thibodeauxville Fall Festival, Thibodaux
Louisiana Pecan Festival, Colfax
New Orleans Fringe Festival, New Orleans
Three Rivers Art Festival, Covington
Destrehan Plantation Fall Harvest Festival, Destrehan
Sugar Day Festival, Alexandria
Words & Music Festival: A Literary Feast in New Orleans, New Orleans
Houmapalooza Fall Music Festival, Houma
Atchafalaya Basin Festival, Henderson
Louisiana Swine Festival, Basile
Rayne Frog Festival, Rayne
Giant Omelette Celebration, Abbeville
Southdown Marketplace Fall Arts & Crafts Festival, Houma
Louisiana Renaissance Festival, Hammond
Mirliton Festival, New Orleans
Sabine Freestate Festival, Florien
Treme Creole Gumbo Festival, New Orleans
Louisiana Book Festival, Baton Rouge
Hell Yes Fest Comedy Festival, New Orleans
Westwego Cypress Swamp Festival, Westwego
Oak Street Po-Boy Festival, New Orleans
Port Barre Cracklin Festival, Port Barre


December

Christmas Under the Oaks, Sulphur
Festival of the Bonfires, Lutcher
Fall Harvest Festival, Grant
Christmas on the River, Monroe-West Monroe
Fire and Water Rural Arts Celebration (Le Feu et L’Eau), Arnaudville
Noel Acadien au Village, Lafayette
Celebration in the Oaks, New Orleans
Delcambre Christmas Boat Parade, Delcambre
Christmas Festival of Lights, Natchitoches
Plaquemines Parish Fair and Orange Festival, Buras


 

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