New Orleans’ Bayou Boogaloo keeps its neighborhood feel

Photo provided by MotherShip Foundation -- The banks of Bayou St. John are crowded with music lovers at the Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo.
Photo provided by MotherShip Foundation -- The banks of Bayou St. John are crowded with music lovers at the Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo.

Fest slated this weekend 

The Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo has become one of New Orleans’ favorite free festivals since it kicked off in 2006. And this year’s fest, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, will likely make the annual event more popular than ever.

The 2013 Boogaloo is hosted on the banks of Bayou St. John by the MotherShip Foundation, a local group with the mission of improving the quality of life of New Orleans residents through the promotion of art, culture and recreation.

“I always wanted to produce a free festival,” said Jared Zeller, director of the Bayou Boogaloo and president of the MotherShip Foundation.

“There’s a lot of folks who can’t attend a major music festival these days because of the ticket price,” he said. “So it limits the amount of people that have exposure to … art and culture.”

Art and culture will abound at this year’s Boogaloo. Festival visitors will have a bevy of family-friendly activities to choose from as well as loads of music to enjoy.

On Friday, acts including Rebirth Brass Band, Partners N Crime with Big Easy Bounce Band, and Alvin Youngblood Hart will take the stage to entertain revelers.

Saturday, bands including Bonerama, Debauche, Nathan & the Zydeco Cha-Chas, and the Brass-a-Holics will perform. Saturday’s programming will also include a taping of The Goodnight Show with John Calhoun.

On Sunday, the final day of the fest, acts such as the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the Pine Leaf Boys, Ironing Board Sam, the Hot 8 Brass Band, Big Chief Victor Harris and Fleur de Tease will perform.

Sunday’s programming also includes a bicycle second line spearheaded by local nonprofit group Bike Easy. The second line will take off from the foot of Bayou St. John at 11 a.m. and will make a roughly 11-mile circle around the city, returning to the Boogaloo at around 1 p.m.

As a second line, there will of course be music — this year the Bone Tone Brass Band and the Pocket Aces Brass Band have been enlisted to play for riders along the route.

“It’s just a good chance for people who ride bikes to get in there and meet other like-minded people,” said Jamie Wine, executive director of Bike Easy.

Bike Easy, Wine noted, will be on hand at the festival all weekend to help with the Boogaloo’s effort to be a clean, green festival; the group will be “valeting” and keeping an eye on bicycles for attendees at no charge.

Festival-goers will also have the chance to sample wares from a vast array of food and drink purveyors such as Ralph’s on the Park, Rio Mar, Praline Connection, Boucherie, Canal Street Bistro, Mona’s CafĂ©, Rouses, Bayou Daiquiris, Bratz Y’all and Woody’s Fish Tacos.

Food culture will also take center stage at the Slow Foods tent.

Gary Granata, chairman of the Slow Food New Orleans chapter, explained, “The mission of Slow Food is to promote good, clean and fair food.”

“Basically, ‘good’ means you have the right to the pleasure of delicious food that’s locally sourced,” he added.

The Slow Food group is set to hold four food demonstrations per day on both Saturday and Sunday and, as the Boogaloo coincides with the group’s Slow Food USA leadership conference, visitors should be in for some one-of-a-kind experiences.

Sunday’s events will also include the renowned Rubber Duck Derby benefiting Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana. Bright yellow rubber ducks, adoptable for $5 each, will take to Bayou St. John at 4 p.m. and race for fantastic prizes including a grand prize of $5,000.

“The festival continues to grow at a moderate pace,” Zeller said of the fest, which has grown in attendance from 6,000 visitors its first year to about 30,000 visitors (over three days) last year.

“We don’t feel the need to book big, national acts,” Zeller said. “It’s a neighborhood setting; we want to keep that intimacy.”

The festival continues to grow in popularity, but happily so do efforts to keep the festival “green.”

Zeller explained that the festival will be harnessing solar energy to help offset energy consumption. In fact, he said, “According to my solar installer, we are going to generate about 630 percent more power than we are actually going to use at the festival.”

Additionally, Zeller noted a portion of festival proceeds will benefit Restore the Bayou Canopy, a campaign of the MotherShip Foundation to restore trees along the bayou damaged by hurricanes Isaac and Katrina.

One damaged tree is even being transformed into a sculpture by artist Marlin Miller, of Destin, Fla.

Miller, who has been sculpting damaged trees along the Gulf Coast since Hurricane Katrina, said he plans to incorporate themes of nature and music for his Bayou St. John piece. Based on the size of the tree, which is roughly 3 feet in diameter, Miller estimates the completed sculpture will be 20 to 30 feet tall.

“It’s going to look a little freaky, and I think I can get away with that in New Orleans,” Miller said with a laugh.

Miller began working on the piece a few days before the festival and the sculpture is set to receive its first coat of varnish the Friday the Boogaloo begins.

The Boogaloo will be open from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.