A Sure Bet
Doubling down on the second year of the Fried Chicken Festival
Last fall, when nearly every friend I had in New Orleans expressed excitement about the new Fried Chicken Festival (FCF), I knew it was going to be a smash hit. I also knew the crowds it would draw might be packed, but the production team at Spears Group would do their best to improve the experience if it returned in 2017. I was correct, and the second iteration of FCF brings twice the offerings over the course of two days this year – Sept. 23 and 24.
Criticized last year for the long lines and limited space, Spears Group has capitalized on the draw of fried chicken and literally doubled down on the festival by spreading the event over two days and relocating it from the somewhat cramped Lafayette Square Park to Woldenberg Park along the Mississippi River.
In line with increasing its presence, Spears Group is also planning for an increase in attendance. The inaugural event drew nearly 40,000 attendees. This year, the organizers are anticipating more than double that, with more than 100,000 festival goers planned over the fall weekend.
The late September festival has not only grown in space and time, but in support as well. The second year brings returning presenting sponsor Raising Cane’s, as well as additional sponsors such as AT&T, State Farm, Best Buy, Capital One Bank, Sucré and more.
"Our team has worked very hard over the last year to identify brands that we believe align with our festival and collaborated with them to create experiences that we are confident our guests will really enjoy," said Cleveland Spears, III, president and CEO of the Spears Group and FCF organizer.
Last year Spears claimed the FCF would bring a “unique twist to a very popular Southern dish and it will become a new experience that is uniquely New Orleans.” He is a man of his word and the number of food vendors has risen from 28 to 35, not only an increase in number but also in representation of Southern foodways.
Three stages—two music stages and one cooking demo stage—will allow for live entertainment and celebrity chefs. The cooking demo stage will be anchored by celebrity chef Jeff Henderson, an award-winning chef and bestselling author made famous by his Food Network TV show, “Flip My Food.” Henderson previously served as executive chef at Café Bellagio and Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.
It isn’t a NOLA festival without musical entertainment and FCF is busy finalizing the lineup. 2016’s event featured Sweet Crude, John Boutte, Tank and the Bangas, Brass-A- Holics and DJ Mannie Fresh. With an increase in sponsorships and visibility, 2017 will not be lacking in talent.
A new addition to the festival is the AT&T and Best Buy Football Fan Zone, where attendees can watch college and NFL football coverage from the event without missing a touchdown.
Additionally, the American Federation for Children Kids’ Coop will include face painting, spacewalks and karate demonstrations, among other offerings, making the festival even more family friendly than the previous iteration.
Mark your calendar now for Saturday, Sept. 23 from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 24, from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Woldenberg Park. VIP tickets are also available for advance purchase for $60. Current details and new announcements are available on the website at friedchickenfestival.com.