RVs and pickup trucks piled into the lots surrounding Tiger Stadium on Saturday for Bayou Country Superfest with their loads of beer, homemade margaritas and full spreads of Cajun food set out on white foldout tables.
With football season still months away, those who can’t get enough of Death Valley on game day — and the hours of tailgating preceding kickoff — set up for a similar experience for Bayou Country Superfest. Tailgaters surrounded “Fan Fest,” a central hub of food, drink and midday performers that spanned the hours before the main event began.
Fan Fest previously has been a popular feature of the Superfest, but some in that crowd noticed a drop in attendance from past years.
Kelli Brown, who worked the festival for Bud Light, noted the event wasn’t well-attended.
“Everyone has said the crowd has definitely decreased over the last three years,” she said. “I would agree. It’s not very packed.”
“There’s been a huge decrease in attendance from last year to this year,” Taylor Rossi added.
Some of the other tailgaters who have attended Superfest for years said they hadn’t noticed much of a drop in attendance.
But any decrease in festivalgoers didn’t seem to bother many stationed around Tiger Stadium, who blared loud country music, watched the LSU softball game and prepared for the university’s baseball team’s matchup later in the afternoon.
A group of Baton Rouge teenagers, mostly Catholic High School students or recent graduates, took to a gravel parking lot with a pickup truck and charcoal grill in the late morning to soak in the Memorial Day weekend.
Stephen Lemoine, 18, said LSU football games coincide with hunting season, and his group of a dozen instead gets their tailgating fix in May while seeing their favorite country artists.
“This is the inexpensive way to do it,” he said.
Dozens of RVs lined the lot closest to the stadium, where die-hard LSU fans shared the space with other teams’ fans — including those from Texas A&M.
Randy Brown drove 150 miles in his RV to set up an Aggies-friendly tailgate while being surrounded by LSU fans.
But any animosity fueled by football season would wait until fall.
Fans of different teams happily mingled. People from all over Louisiana and Texas sporadically walked across South Stadium Drive to the Fan Fest to meet and greet artists and see performers including Corey Ledet and His Zydeco Band, Derek Norsworthy, and The Morrison Brothers Band.
A Spam food truck offered free samples of everything from barbecue jalapeno tacos to bánh mì — all made with the canned meat.
That food truck was on a leg of its 16-city tour, giving out samples and gathering letters from country music festivalgoers as part of care packages sent to men and women serving overseas.
Dean Bull, the tour manager, said country music fans and Spam consumers have a healthy overlap, which is why the SPAMERICAN Tour targets events like Bayou Country Superfest.
“The only thing more American than Spam is apple pie,” Bull said.
Scot Doyen, a lawyer from Houston, cooked jambalaya, brisket and baked beans and let the beer and margaritas flow freely for those who stumbled upon his RV, which he set up in throwing distance from the Fan Fest.
Doyen has never tailgated for a football game at LSU, despite being a casual fan and befriending dozens of LSU alumni. But Saturday was not his first Bayou Country Superfest experience, as he’s been to Baton Rouge for each of the last few Memorial Day weekends.
“People in south Louisiana are so nice, and that’s what makes the experience,” he said. “The music is great, but the people are awesome.”