The Gretna Heritage Festival has long included big name rockers, from more contemporary acts such as 2015 headliner Kid Rock to throwback acts, such as Grand Funk Railroad, Chicago or Foghat. But it has always had internationally famous acts, says festival cofounder and current Jefferson Parish District 1 Councilman Ricky Templet.
“We had Frankie Ford the second year,” Templet says.
Ford was a longtime West Bank resident, and he helped draw a crowd to the fledgling event, which Templet says attracted up to 600 people.
“Back then we were a one-day, one stage festival,” Templet says. “I helped unload the sound equipment. The Gretna Economic Development Association (which created the event) had a booth serving shrimp pasta, which I cooked.”
Now in its 24th year, the festival has grown to a three-day event with five music stages and fills 25 blocks of downtown Gretna surrounding Huey P. Long Avenue at the riverfront. Foreigner, rapper Tone Loc and country act Montgomery Gentry headline the fest.
Foreigner was a staple of rock radio in the late 70s and early 80s with hits such as “I Want to Know What Love Is,” “Hot Blooded” and “Feels Like the First Time.” It released the album Juke Box Heroes this year, and returns to the festival for the first time since 2012. The L.W. Higgins High School choir will join the band for a song during its set 10 p.m. Saturday.
There’s plenty of throwback appeal to the festival’s Friday night main stage lineup. Tone Loc, the rapper behind ’80s hits “Wild Thing” and “Funky Cold Medina,” performs at 5:30 p.m. The ’90s R&B band Color Me Badd has mixed up its lineup since disbanding and reforming, but it follows at 6:15 p.m. 1970s disco and soul group Sister Sledge follows at 7:45 p.m., and Village People closes the stage at 9:15 p.m. Randy Jackson of local hard rockers Zebra performs at 4 p.m. Friday.
The main stage features a rock lineup Saturday night with Night Ranger and 90s alt-rockers Gin Blossoms performing before Foreigner. The day also features plenty of local bands, including Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. and the Zydeco Twisters, Amanda Shaw and Big Six Brass Band.
Country stars take over the main stage on Sunday afternoon, beginning with singer Michael Ray at noon. Grammy- and Country Music Association Awards-winner Lee Ann Womack performs at 2:15 p.m. Troy Gentry died in 2017, but Eddie Montgomery has continued to tour with Montgomery Gentry, which last appeared at the festival in 2008. It performs at 4:30 p.m.
There are a few new features at the festival this year. There’s a parade at 2 p.m. Saturday featuring three bands and floats with guest riders from Kidd’s Kids, a foundation for children with life-threatening or life-altering conditions. There also is a tailgating tent adjacent to the craft beer area. The tent will feature a DJ, and the LSU Tigers and New Orleans Saints’ football games will be broadcast on four large-screen TVs. The festival has hosted a car show in past years, and it holds a classic car show this year.
Regular features of the festival include a beer garden with beers from many regional and national craft brewers. A German beer garden adds Oktoberfest flair with bratwursts, pretzels and German apple cake. The Italian Village has Italian dishes, desserts and wines and a music stage. There also are amusement rides, a food court and an art market.