New Orleanians Go Fou For Pensacola’s Foo Foo Fest
It’s a 12-day eclectic, cultural feast in November that helps fill in the gaps between some of Pensacola, Florida’s marquee fall events including the Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival, the Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival, the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show at NAS Pensacola and the Pensacola Marathon.
The Foo Foo Festival, from Thursday, Nov. 2 – Monday, Nov. 13, will additionally feature streets filled with hundreds of colorful suspended umbrellas, science exhibits, live painting events, a symphonic photochoreography show, comedy, a tango opera, a BBQ competition judged by Chef John Besh and New Orleans style jazz performances.
Those are just a few of the many events that celebrate art, cuisine, music and theater produced and executed by artists and culture lovers of the area scheduled for the fourth annual Foo Foo Fest, and they are helping build Pensacola’s fall tourism base with a lot of help from local New Orleanians.
According to Visit Pensacola’s annual “Value of Visitors” survey, Pensacola experienced a 67 percent increase in tourism from November 2015 to November 2016, and visitor spending grew 32 percent from $37,209,007 to $49,157,056 during those November months.
The report also shows visitors from New Orleans make up the fourth largest group to spend time and money in an around the city otherwise known for its famed white beaches.
“The fourth annual Foo Foo Festival in Pensacola caters to New Orleans art seekers, culture enthusiasts and entertainment lovers with 12 days of cuisine, music, art and theater,” said David Bear, festival producer and president of Arts, Culture and Entertainment, Inc. (ACE). “Just a short drive from New Orleans, Pensacola truly comes alive in the fall. Known as festival season, the area is notorious for temperate climates, quiet beaches, budget-friendly rates and a robust programming schedule.”
ACE is a nonprofit organization that receives federal, state, county, city, corporate, foundation and personal funds to disperse through an equitable granting process to nonprofit arts, culture and entertainment organizations throughout Escambia County, Florida. ACE promotes the region as an arts and cultural destination through the annual Foo Foo Festival and other marketing efforts.
This year, ACE awarded 19 recipients $300,000 in grant funding to host individual experiences specific to their craft throughout the festival period at various locations throughout downtown Pensacola.
“The Foo Foo Festival challenges visitors to vacation artfully, musically and aesthetically,” ACE’s Bear said. “With something for everyone, the festival is a true collection of arts, culture and entertainment forces joining to promote the character of the Gulf South region.”
This year, the Foo Foo Fest features:
• The Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival (Nov. 3-5) is considered one of the best-regarded, most popular arts festivals in the country. With more than 200 of the nation’s praised painters, potters, sculptors, jewelers, graphic artists, craftsmen and other artists, Foo Foo Festgoers will have the opportunity to browse, buy and speak to the artists behind the work.
• The 33rd Annual Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival (Nov. 9-19) will feature more than 200 nationally acclaimed songwriters in venues along the Florida and Alabama Gulf Coast and is an opportunity for seasoned and aspiring songwriters and musicians from all over the world to have their songs heard, and for the public to learn the stories behind the lyrics that only the song’s author can express.
• U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels Homecoming Airshow at NAS Pensacola (Nov. 10-11) will celebrate Veterans Day weekend and the 71st anniversary of the Blue Angels flying team. Friday night’s show will feature nighttime aircraft and performers and the largest fireworks display in the Pensacola area.
• 13th Annual Pensacola Marathon (Nov. 12) will offer a 13.1-mile circuit of the city for the half marathoners and a full 26.2-mile loop for the full marathon runners. Participants will welcome the day with a sunrise view and a running route atop the bluffs overlooking Escambia Bay. The course also takes runners through Pensacola’s historic neighborhoods and the downtown district and live bands will perform along the route.
• Pensacola Umbrella Sky Project and Busker Festival (Nov. 2-12) will shade Foo Foo Festgoers with hundreds of colorful umbrellas suspended in the air and entertain with locally and regionally renowned street performers. Inspired by the Umbrella Sky Project first exhibited in Agueda, Portugal, the Friends of Downtown Pensacola will bring the enchanting event to Intendencia Street.
• Science on the Street (Nov. 2-11) will showcase interactive science exhibits and a demonstration that proves the Pythagorean Theorem, a sundial in honor of Eratosthenes, a Bridge of Pensacola exhibit imitating Leonhard Euler’s Bridges of Konigsberg and a coprolite specimen to celebrate Mary Anning.
• CUBED (Nov. 3-5) takes public art to a new level of interactivity at the Pensacola Museum of Art at the University of West Florida. Artists will actively create murals on a cube, with an individual painting on each side. The artists are taking inspiration from The Thirty Million Words™ initiative to start a conversation about the parent-directed program designed to educate families on the importance of parent language.
• Awakenings (Nov. 4) is a concert celebrating the vibrant culture, rich historic roots and thriving downtown of Pensacola portrayed through imagery and moving music performed by the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra. “Pensacola: Then & Now,” is being hailed as a stunning sensory experience that uses pictures from Pensacola’s celebrated past and present projected just above the orchestra to a symphonic photochoreography (a blend of panoramic photography with live classical music).
• Writing on the Funny Side of Florida (Nov. 9) will highlight humorous prose by Florida journalists and novelists in a series of workshops, readings and book signings organized by The West Florida Literary Federation that fosters a creative domain for literary expression.
• María de Buenos Aires (Nov. 10 and 12) is a surreal, genre-bending tango opera performed by artists and musicians from the Pensacola Opera, Ballet Pensacola and the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra. The seductive Argentinean tango artists will give sizzling performances at the Ashmore Auditorium at Pensacola State College, and pulse to the passion and beat of Astor Piazzolla’s revolutionary Nuevo tango and Horacio Ferrer’s imaginative poetry.
• The Florida panhandle’s Emerald Coast will be smoking, literally, at the Pensacola Big Green Egg® Cook-Off (Nov. 12) inside the Blue Wahoos’ Stadium. Some of the best chefs and competition BBQ teams from the southeast will set up nearly 100 Big Green Eggs® inside the stadium overlooking Pensacola Bay and compete to create the most outlandish, yet delicious, dishes all cooked inside the large smoking machines and grills. Foodies get to sample every BBQ’ed bite being cooked by the Big Green Egg® masters, and New Orleans’ own Chef John Besh will be one of the celebrity judges.
• On the Foo Foo Fest’s closing night, Monday, Nov. 13, “An Evening of New Orleans Jazz” will feature a band of six New Orleans musicians performing at Seville Quarter’s Phineas Phogg’s at 130 E. Government St.
“Visitors and locals will have the opportunity to see first-hand what makes Pensacola truly remarkable during the fall: the food, music, art and entertainment that makes for an unforgettable experience,” ACE’s Bear said.
Some events do require a ticket for entry, but many Foo Foo Fest events are free to the public.