For almost 30 years, residents of south Louisiana have gathered at John Davis Park for the annual Lacombe Crab Festival, a celebration of Louisiana food, music and art.
From Friday through Sunday, locals will meet under the park’s centuries-old oaks and revel in the cuisine familiar to all Louisianians, with a hefty focus on seafood.
After founders of the fest stepped away in 2005 and a string of temporary managers stepped in, the event has been reorganized and revitalized this year as Crabfest Lacombe, the new organizer said.
Kenny Kehoe moved back to Louisiana three years ago and began attending Crabfest as a volunteer. As the new organizer, Kehoe promises to provide a festival that focuses on great food and music, offers easier traffic flow and gives back to the community.
It’s not Kehoe’s first time creating a special event. He got his start putting on consumer electronic shows in the Superdome in the 1970s, which he then turned into a career in Dallas. He returned to Louisiana to retire but said the Crabfest was an opportunity that called for his attention.
This year, Kehoe has enlisted the help of New Orleans Music Events’ Deanna Bernard to book popular musicians like Grammy-winner Chubby Carrier, New Orleans legend Cyril Neville’s Swampfunk and Louisiana favorite Tab Benoit.
“I think we’ve been successful in both of those areas,” Kehoe said, referring to food and music. “Now, anyone who comes to the festival is going to really enjoy the food, and they’re going to have plenty of incentive to overeat and then dance it off. We think we’re going to have a lot of fun.”
Setup in the park has been redesigned so that vendors don’t affect crowd flow, and a large amount of seating has been added.
Instead of selling tickets to carnival rides, organizers will offer free activities for kids, such as a few giant inflatables, interactive games from Louisiana Connections Academy and a visit from T-Mike Kliebert accompanied by a few of his “toothy friends” from Kliebert’s Turtle and Alligator Farm.
Finally, Crabfest will focus on raising money for charitable nonprofit organizations. Ride of the Brotherhood, a local veterans motorcycle group, will host a charitable motorcycle ride at the festival. There is a $500 prize for first place, $250 for second and $100 for third.
“We have other nonprofits coming,” Kehoe said. “The Boy Scouts, the Cub Scouts, the fire department union, a local art studio that caters to the needs of kids. And we are inviting all local nonprofits to come in and do what they do to raise money for their organizations.
“That will be the purpose and function of the festival going forward.”