’13 Family Gras ¬†gets ‘super’ boost

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER  Jefferson Parish President John Young speaks at a news conference Tuesday announcing the line-up and economic impact of the Family Gras Festival in Metairie Tuesday. The event will be held February 1 and 2.
Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER Jefferson Parish President John Young speaks at a news conference Tuesday announcing the line-up and economic impact of the Family Gras Festival in Metairie Tuesday. The event will be held February 1 and 2.

Carnival’s premier family attraction is ready to roll in a few weeks, and Jefferson Parish officials see this year’s Family Gras celebration as the perfect opportunity to raise the event’s national awareness, thanks to the Super Bowl.

Jefferson Parish officials and the Jefferson Convention and Visitor’s Bureau held the annual unveiling of the musical lineup for Family Gras at a news conference Tuesday morning in Metairie. The conference, which was held in the newly remodeled former Borders bookstore building on Veterans Boulevard, was a chance for officials to tout the event’s family friendly bona fides and discuss its overall impact. Musical acts announced for this year’s Family Gras, which will be held Feb. 1 and 2, include Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Credence Clearwater Revisited, Blues Traveler and Soul Asylum.

Parish President John Young said that with Family Gras and the Super Bowl on the same weekend, it’s sure to be a great time for local residents and visitors. Family Gras already draws thousands of visitors from across the Gulf Coast, and the Super Bowl will just give more people the opportunity to experience Carnival the way Jefferson Parish does it.

“This year is going to be a Super Family Gras,” Young exclaimed. “Every year Family Gras gets bigger and better.”

Young said officials expect this year’s event to set record numbers for attendance, which would continue an exponential explosion of growth in the event’s six-year lifespan. Councilman Ricky Templet noted that when Family Gras began, only 10,000 people came out to the event. Last year, the event drew roughly 80,000 visitors, he said.

“People from all over the country are starting to come to Family Gras,” Templet said.

Councilman Mark Spears noted that to take advantage of the Super Bowl, the parish is offering a free shuttle service from downtown to Lakeside Mall. The parish plans to bring back the Arts Market, and officials are really pushing the family friendly aspect of the event. Councilwoman Cynthia Lee-Sheng said that a study showed that roughly 84 percent of the visitors to Family Gras came with one or more children.

Jefferson Parish’s decision to hold the event and its accompanying parades the same weekend as the Super Bowl bucks what was supposed to be a quiet time for the region as New Orleans officials try to focus on the game and draw on surrounding law enforcement agencies to bolster their police efforts. Young shied away from discussing any sort of conflict with New Orleans officials and instead said that having Family Gras at the same time as the game is a positive for the region. It gives people options for how they spend their time and money, and some studies show that Super Bowl visitors can spend as much as $6,000.

Young noted that the event’s official translation of “Fat Family,” doesn’t just refer to the plethora of deep-fried treats served by vendors. Family Gras also has a large effect on the parish’s economy with nearly $7 million in economic impact, and it’s part of roughly $1 billion in tourism-related spending annually, according to Violet Peters, the president and chief executive officer of the visitors bureau.

Young said that Jefferson Parish would be remiss if it neglected this opportunity to showcase what it has to offer to the world, and that’s why Family Gras is moving forward on its normal weekend.

“I think it’s going to make the whole Super Bowl experience even better,” Young said. “This is going to be in my mind a win-win for everyone.”