POSTED Mon. May 12, 2014
Bayou Boogaloo coming at you
Kat Stromquist

I love a good party as much as the next person, but like many cash-poor locals, I swore off Jazz Fest years ago. Between the camping chairs staked out in front of the big name acts and the Gobi-like terrain, I’ll save the track for racing season.

But I get excited for Bayou Boogaloo, even if I always sleep through its signature bicycle pub crawl. Along the grassy banks of Bayou St. John, this festival gives you a chance to eat fish tacos and jam to acts like Big Freedia without forking over a week’s paycheck. This year’s Boogaloo kicks off this weekend, from May 16-18

“During the [Katrina] evacuation, I had the idea that we could use this free festival to help revitalize the neighborhood,” Jared Zeller, festival founder, says. “We’ve grown in attendance, programming, caliber of musicians, caliber of art, and number of activities for kids and families.”

After nine years, the fest’s events still brighten a neighborhood once in low spirits after it took on some serious water. I suppose you could float a rubber duck down the bayou at just about any time, but a rubber duck derby turns an eccentric pastime into a competitive sport. Over the weekend, kayak rentals, outdoor yoga, and an 11-mile bike ride (thankfully, not the pub crawl) all make use of the bayou as a public space.

“We’re really just trying to encourage people to get outdoors and recreate, and Bayou St. John is a great place to do that, whether it’s riding a bicycle, canoeing, walking your dog, whatever,” Zeller says. “That’s part of our mission with [the festival’s organizing group] the MotherShip Foundation.”

This year, Zeller promises bigger music acts, more food demonstrations from local chefs, farmers and mixologists, and enhanced services in the VIP area. Though the festival itself is free, Canopy Club VIP access includes free refreshments, comfortable seating, and better amenities. At $100 for a weekend pass, it’s not cheap, but might be worth it if you wish to adjourn to an air-conditioned toilette.

With great music, snacks like last year’s memorable peanut butter and bacon crepe, and artwork that stands up to any big-time or Bywater operation, it’s easy to forget that Bayou Boogaloo is a mostly volunteer operation. Zeller still has a day job, and a part-time staff scrambles to put together the growing festival and handle its charitable activities during the rest of the year.

As we fest-goers kick back with a few beers at the edge of the bayou, Zeller wants us to share his team’s community spirit.

“We always encourage people to bring their bicycles, to join the rubber duck derby, to get involved in the events…a free festival allows the whole community to experience public art,” he says.

Image courtesy of Charlie London and Bayou Boogaloo.


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    The Arts Council of New Orleans

    The Arts Council of New Orleans is a private, non-profit organization designated as the City’s official arts agency. The Arts Council serves as one of eight regional distributing agencies for state arts funds and administers available municipal arts grants and the Percent For Art program for the City of New Orleans. The Arts Council works in partnership with the City of New Orleans, community groups, local, state, and national governmental agencies, and other nonprofit arts organizations to meet the arts and cultural needs of the New Orleans community through a diversity of initiatives and services.


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    WWOZ 90.7 FM is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station offering listener-supported, volunteer-programmed community radio. WWOZ covers many events live in and around the city and across the United States, and broadcasts live from the famed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival annually. WWOZ’s mission is to be the worldwide voice, archive, and flag-bearer of New Orleans culture and musical heritage.


    Preservation Resource Center (PRC) has been preserving, restoring, and revitalizing New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods since 1974. Throughout its history, PRC has acted as an advocacy agent on a local, regional, and national scale, spreading the word about the city’s rich architectural heritage and the economic importance of preserving this heritage. PRC also takes a hands-on approach to preservation, with a history of successfully restoring over 1,400 properties. The center strengthens and revitalizes New Orleans in a way that is forward-looking and sustainable, yet sensitive to the city’s past and its heritage.


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    The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) is a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. Its holdings comprise more than one million items from more than three centuries, documenting moments both major and minor. Its four exhibition spaces–the Williams Gallery, the Louisiana History Galleries, the Boyd Cruise Gallery, and the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art–faithfully depict the multicultural stories of the region, from permanent displays exploring the evolution of Louisiana to rotating exhibitions showcasing history and fine art.

    Southern Food

    The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South. While based in New Orleans, the Museum examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s unique culinary heritage. The Museum is also home to the collections of the Museum of the American Cocktail, the Galerie d’Absinthe, and a demonstration kitchen.

    Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to all Louisianans.

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ mission is to provide all Louisianans with access to and an appreciation of their own rich, shared and diverse historical, literary and cultural heritage through grant-supported outreach programs, family literacy and adult reading initiatives, teacher professional development institutes, publications, film and radio documentaries, museum exhibitions, cultural tourism, public lectures, library projects, and other public humanities programming.



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