If funnel cakes, midway rides, dangerous stunts, live music and exotic animals are how you'd like to celebrate the fading of a pandemic, the Greater Baton Rouge State Fair has just what you need.
Canceled in 2020, the 55th annual fair cranked up its 11-day run Thursday at BREC's Airline Highway Park, and organizers promise a mix of old and new.
“We’re bringing back some attractions that are very popular with the public," said Cliff Barton, State Fair chairman. "We have new entertainment every night on the stage. We have people who have never played the fairs before.”
Last year's hiatus wasn't the first time the fair had to be canceled; after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the fairgrounds were turned into a staging area for relief efforts. The difference is that COVID-19 pretty much shut down the entire entertainment industry in 2020. Now, those performers are eager to be in front of crowds, Barton said.
“The outdoor events industry in Louisiana is in pretty good shape as far as COVID goes," Barton said. "There are no real restrictions on the outdoor events. It’s the indoor events that are the problem.”
Those who show up will have plenty of options. Musical artists include David St. Romain, the Ole Sole Band, the Justin McCain Project, Chris LeBlanc & Chris Roberts and Chubby Carrier performing country, rock, Latino, Cajun, zydeco, swamp pop, blues and more.
Three popular attractions from past fairs will be back: Pages Globe of Death Motorcycle Stunt Show, Swifty Swine Pig Racing and Noah’s Way Exotic Animal Petting Zoo. Other daily attractions include magician Tim Spinosa and comedian/sound effects/musician Washboard Willy.
Several years ago, Barton personally got into the Globe of Death, standing still as two motorcycles raced around him.
“I was wearing a cap and I felt something hit my head, and I put my hand up and my cap was gone," Barton said. "A few seconds later, something else touched my head, and one of the riders actually … put a different cap on my head while I was standing there.
“I’ll get in there any time they want me to. It’s a trip.”
Also, there are more than 40 rides in what Barton said is the largest midway in south Louisiana.
In addition to its entertainment value, the fair raises money for charitable donations and has handed out more than $4.2 million since 1987. Last year's cancellation has not stopped the giving; the State Fair Foundation kept a reserve fund to support the fair itself and a year's worth of philanthropic work.
"Now, we need a good fair this year to try to replenish those so if something happens in the future, we’re OK,” Barton said.
6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Careless Whisper (variety duo)
8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., The Confidential Band (variety)
1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., Studio 4 (classic rock)
3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Ole Sole (variety)
5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Justin McCain Project (variety)
8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Brandon Green (country)
Latino Music Day
2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., Grupo Sensaction (Latin/salsa)
4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., Julio & Cesar (Latin/salsa)
7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Javier Olondo and Asheson (salsa/Cuban/merengue/bachata/cumbia)
6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Chris LeBlanc & Chris Roberts (acoustic duo)
6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Randy & Russ (acoustic duo)
6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Blue Crab Redemption (rockin' blues)
THURSDAY, NOV. 4
6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., The Rusty Yates Band (variety/R&B)
FRIDAY, NOV. 5
5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., Eric Wayne Gautreaux (acoustic)
7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., The Orillion Project (classic rock & blues)
SATURDAY, NOV. 6
2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., Nouveaux Cajun Xpress (Cajun/zydeco)
4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., Paul & Pete, with special guest Randy Albarez (swamp pop)
7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., Ivory White ('80s & '90s)
SUNDAY, NOV. 7
1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., Rewind (funk & soul)
3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., Gregg Martinez & The Delta Kings (R&B, soul)
6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Chubby Carrier & The Bayou Swamp Band (zydeco)