Throngs of hungry visitors came out to enjoy the sunny, clear skies and mild November weather Sunday at the annual Oak Street Po-Boy Festival.
The Oak Street corridor off South Carrollton Avenue and its side streets were brimming with visitors for the annual festival, now in its 11th year. The event also featured art vendors, street musicians and four stages of live music.
This year's festival was originally scheduled for Oct. 22 but was postponed due to the threat of inclement weather.
Although admission remained free, many patrons to the annual celebration of the city’s most iconic sandwich donned something new this year: a wristband.
Facing rising production costs for the booming one-day multiblock party, the festival’s organizers this year required those interested in purchasing a po-boy to first buy a $5 wristband — a requirement that raised at least a few grumbles.
Recent years have seen the festival crowds swell to the tens of thousands, and this year organizers estimated that 40,000 to 50,000 people would attend the food, music and arts fete.
Though required for food, the wristband wasn’t necessary to purchase drinks, and more than a few attendees were quick to realize that purchasing one wristband for a group of eaters would suffice.
Still, lines appeared less daunting than in years past, when the wait for the most sought-after po-boys could stretch to an hour or more.
Patrons also had the option of purchasing a $25 “fast pass,” which allowed them to skip the lines and move straight to the front. That appeared to help alleviate at least some of the wait times, except, of course, for those without the passes.
At 11 a.m., an hour after the festival’s scheduled start, the narrow Oak Street corridor was already packed with sandwich lovers, street musicians and po-boy and drink vendors.
By 1 p.m. the longest of the lines stretched about 30 people deep at Seither’s Seafood.
A team of judges tested the more than 50 sandwiches for sale and proclaimed these winners:
Best pork: Vincent’s godfather po-boy
Best beef: Bienvenue Bar and Grill's prime rib po-boy
Best poultry: Simone’s Market's smoked, fried chicken thigh po-boy
Best sausage: Bratz Y’all's drunk pig po-boy
Most original: Simone’s Market's Lebacajun po-boy
Best seafood: Red Fish Grill’s BBQ oysters po-boy
Best shrimp: Seither’s peepaw po-boy
Best in show: Red Fish Grill’s BBQ oysters po-boy