The eats, the music, the arts and crafts, and, fingers crossed, the sunshine will all be back this weekend for the 4th annual Baton Rouge Soul Food Festival.

The free, family-friendly festival runs from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday at Riverfront Plaza, 300 S. River Road.

After a pause in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, thankful is how festival founder and organizer Henry Turner Jr. feels about the event's return.

"We are also glad that some of the talent from last year’s (cancelled) festival is joining us this year and that we have acts coming in from California, Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama, in addition to the Listening Room All-stars and other local and regional bands," said Turner, owner of Henry Turner Jr.'s Listening Room. "The vendors are also glad and excited to get back to work after a year off."

The vendors’ village will offer arts, crafts, clothing, and of course, soul food favorites. Continuous music will include soul, blues, gospel, Christian and jazz. There also will be a judged soul cooking contest and presentation of the Pioneer Award for contributions to the soul food industry.

Entree and side dish winners in the cooking contest will be announced at 2:35 p.m. Saturday, while winning appetizers, desserts and drinks will be revealed at 4:40 p.m. Sunday.  

Lizzie Griffin’s son Ricky and daughter Kwanda will accept the Pioneer Award at 4:10 p.m. Saturday for Lizzie’s Restaurant. Lizzie Griffin was famous in the community for lovingly making hearty soul food dishes for patrons of the former barroom Night Cap.

Reviving the festival has had its challenges, Turner admitted.

"A year of no funding has depleted the funds for this festival season," Turner said. "Sponsorship has declined as they can’t plan far enough in advance because of the pandemic."

Turner also organizes the Baton Rouge Mardi Gras Festival and Henry Turner Jr. Day (A Taste of the Deep South).

"We have lost some staff and volunteers and are not sure what past supporters and festival goers will be back for this festival and our other festivals in the future," he said.

On the flipside, "people seem to be very excited to be able to go outside and enjoy large crowds again," he added.

"The optimism that we are seeing for months with music and food lovers is giving us unlimited hope about the future of our festivals," Turner said.

This year's festival will be filmed by WLFT, Channel 30 and the Louisiana Film Channel, My Dog Jack Productions and Rebirth Film Shield Productions for future rebroadcast.

The festival will adhere to the state's present relaxed COVID-19 protocol, Turner emphasized.

"We had an airtight restriction plan, but since the festival has been approved, restrictions have changed and we will act accordingly," he said. "Masks are suggested for unvaccinated people."

More info, along with VIP tickets offering covered seating, food and drinks, and photo ops are available at brsoulfoodfest.com or by calling (225) 802-9681. 

Saturday's highlights

2:35 p.m.: Soul Food Contest Winner Awards (entrees and sides)

4:10 p.m.: Soul Food Pioneer Award Presentation to Lizzie’s Restaurant

Sunday's highlight

4:40 p.m.: Soul Food Contest Winner Awards (appetizers/desserts/drinks)

Special guests

Saturday and Sunday: The kings and queens of Mr. Black Louisiana and Miss Black Empowerment

Sunday: Christian radio host Kerwin Fealing of WTQT, 106.1.

Music Schedule

SATURDAY

11 a.m.-11:30 a.m.: DJ Lloyd “Teddy” Johnson and co-host Whitney Vann

11:30 a.m.-Noon: Jonathan Foster (California, blues/folk)

12:10 p.m.-12:25 p.m.: Jillian Guinta (dance)

12:30 p.m.-12:45 p.m.: Pastor Leon Hitchens (gospel/R&B)

1 p. m.-1:30 p.m.: Konai Adelphe (Knoxville, Tennessee, R&B/gospel)

1:45 p.m.-2:05 p.m.: Belwin (Colfax, Christian)

2:10 p.m.-2:30 p.m.: Nspire and the Inspiration Band (motivational)

3 p.m.-3:30 p.m.: Anthony J. Veal & the PEW (Lafayette, gospel)

3:45 p.m.-4:05 p.m.: Lady Bain (Houston, soul/R&B)

4:30 p.m.-5 p.m.: Larry LZ Dillon (blues/jazz)

5:05 p.m.-5:10 p.m.: Eddie “Cool” Deemer (comedy)

5:15 p.m.-5:45 p.m.: Henry Turner Jr. & Flavor (blues/soul/funk/reggae)

6 p.m.-6:30 p.m.: Real Southern Grace Band (Memphis, Tennessee, Christian rock)

6:45 p.m-7:05 p.m.: Xavie Shorts (R&B)

7:10 p.m.-close: Joe Monk Jam (multiple acts)

SUNDAY

11 a.m.-11:30 a.m.: DJ Lloyd “Teddy” Johnson, co-host Whitney Vann and special guest Kerwin Fealing

11:45 a.m.-12:05 p.m.: Greg Robinson Jr. (blues/folk)

12:15 p.m.-12:45 p.m.: Melerbee (R&B)

1 p.m.-1:25 p.m.: Owen Scott (blues)

1:30 p.m.-1:45 p.m.: Donna Renea (Mobile, Alabama, Southern soul blues)

2 p.m.-2:20 p.m.: James Jr. (Mississippi, soul/R&B) 

2:30 p.m.-2:50 p.m.: House of God Ministries Gospel Singers

3 p.m.-3:30 p.m.: Nspire and the Inspiration Band (motivational)

3:35 p.m.-3:45 p.m.: Eddie “Cool” Deemer (comedy)

4 p.m.-4:30 p.m.: Henry Turner Jr. & Flavor (blues/soul/funk/reggae)

5:10 p.m.-5:40 p.m.: SmokeHouse Porter and Miss Mamie (blues)

5:50 p.m.-6:20 p.m.: Infiniti (smooth jazz)

6:30 p.m.- close: Eric G Soul Spectrum Band 

All times approximate. Lineup subject to change.

Email Judy Bergeron at jbergeron@theadvocate.com.