Bayou St. John might feel like Interstate 10 during rush hour when Bayou Boogaloo presented by Positive Vibrations Foundation returns to Mid-City Friday through Sunday (May 17-19).
But instead of cars, there'll be a bayou highway filled with rafts made of wood, plastic and anything else that floats, as well as the more mundane, but in some cases no less creatively decorated, kayaks and canoes.
The festival, which is charging admission for the first time this year, is known for its fanciful floats and full live music schedule.
The often Dr. Seuss-ian flaoating contraptions are a hallmark of this festival produced by the Friends of Bayou St. John, which created the event in 2006 to reinvigorate the area after Hurricane Katrina.
But please don’t leave these floating palaces abandoned on the banks of the bayou after the festival.
Friends President, festival founder and producer Jared Zeller and other volunteers go out each morning of the festival to pick up trash. There is also a Cash for Trash raffle, which collects bags of recyclables at the end of the day in exchange for a raffle ticket to win prizes or cash. (However, this doesn't mean you shouldn't clean up after yourself.)
Bayou yachters will be in the sights of Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries agents. They may require boaters to wear life vests, depending on size of the boat and passengers' ages.
Leaving behind debris, among other no-nos like bringing outside food and drink into the festival, is against the spirit of this feel-good, all-ages, dog-friendly festival.
"The location makes the festival unique," said Zeller, who is also a real estate agent. "Plus, it's a real celebration of the neighborhood. We bring in a lot of neighborhood partner organizations and groups who use the festival as a way to raise money and visibility for their own causes."
While there are a few out-of-town bands — this year the Suffers and RAM Haiti are two — most performers are from the New Orleans area: This year, Anders Osborne, Amanda Shaw, Cowboy Mouth, Erica Falls, Little Freddie King, Debauche and Tab Benoit will be onstage.
Also part of this year's lineup is Jamaican Me Breakfast Club, which plays reggae versions of '80s hits. The group's rhythm guitarist, Scott Aiges, said the festival was the launching pad for the group in 2017. "We were new on the scene, around less than a year, when the festival took a chance on us," he said. "And when we got off the stage, we were offered a gig."
"The festival is a local production committed to supporting local, homegrown talent," Aiges said. "And if you do well with it, you can convert it to other things. And that’s exactly what we did. It really led to tons of opportunity for us."
Late one night after his wife and kids were asleep, Scott Aiges started strumming Tom Petty’s “Refugee” on guitar, but with a reggae lilt. A l…
Festival food will focus on Southern flavors, including Louisiana favorites such as boiled crawfish and the fixings, shrimp remoulade, sno-balls and po-boys, but also ventures out of the region for a Philly cheesesteak sandwich and Jamaican jerk chicken. Gluten-free options are available from select vendors.
The full bars will be staffed by Pal’s Lounge, Mid-City Yacht Club and Pearl Wine, which have been supporting the festival since it started.
The first keg of Boogaloo Blonde was tapped April 19 at Urban South Brewery, it has been on sale since then at bars throughout the city and, of course, will be served at the festival. The brewery is also sponsoring a stage at the far end at Lafitte Avenue, while Port Orleans Brewing Co. is sponsoring the one at the other end at Dumaine Street. It will be pouring its beers, as well.
Other activities include a paddle boat race hosted by Kayakiityyat and a pub crawl on bikes hosted by Mid-City Volleyball, both on Saturday morning, and a free yoga class from Swan River Yoga on Sunday morning (near the Lafitte Avenue stage). Arts and crafts vendors are also a draw.
Admission is free, but donations are encouraged at the gate. One- or three-day passes to the VIP Canopy Club Lounge can be purchased before or during the festival, and include a tent, misting fans, seating, bathroom, reserved front-row viewing, food, a private bar and membership in the Friends of Bayou St. John, an organization that ensures the health and beauty of Bayou St. John.
In previous years, funds have gone to planting trees along the bayou and anti-litter initiatives.
For 2019, the organization will focus on eliminating the invasive plant, giant Salvinia — its Latin name is Salvinia molesta — which is already in the bayou. The plant’s growth clogs the bayou and blocks sunlight for other aquatic plants, which can cause the water to deoxygenate and stagnate.
When asked why the festival is so popular, Zeller said, "I think people who live in the neighborhood, or might want to, love sampling the food and beverages from many of the Mid-City restaurants and bars that are vendors.
"And how often do you get to dance by the light of the moon on Bayou St. John? Only at the Boogaloo."
Bayou Boogaloo 2019
WHERE: Bayou St. John between Dumaine Street and Lafitte Avenue
ADMISSION: $10; $20 for the three-day weekend. Canopy Club VIP passes $75-$250. Under 12 free.