The Beautiful Boogie

Bayou Boogaloo returns, this time with admission
Ben Barnes


This weekend brings an annual rite of spring as Bayou Boogaloo, the Mid-City music, food and art festival scheduled for May 17-19, draws the adventurous to a flotilla of inflatables on the water and the bacteria-averse to the banks of Bayou St. John.

What was once a small neighborhood gathering has grown to an annual festival that draws 30,000 people. Event organizers dabbled with the idea of charging admission last year but changed their plans and kept the event free for attendees. For the 2019 iteration of the festival, however, admission will be charged with a daily entry fee of $10 and a three-day weekend wristband available for $20.

Organizers said that the City of New Orleans land use fee has increased to such an extent that without charging admission the event would run a serious deficit.

In a statement from City Communications Director Beau Tidwell, he explained, “the city is required by the Louisiana Constitution to charge fair market value for any use of public land for a private purpose. City staff invited [Festival Manager Jared] Zeller to present the public purpose served by the event to offset the fee, however Mr. Zeller chose to pursue a different type of agreement that allows for restricting access and charging admission.”

Festivals are extremely expensive undertakings and are subject to major revenue loss if they have bad weather. Last year, Bayou Boogaloo had to cancel its Friday schedule due to extreme weather — lashing rain and high winds tore apart tents and other festival infrastructure. With weather risk and increasing costs each year, it makes sense that the nonprofit presenter of the festival, Friends of Bayou St. John, needed to begin charging admission.

And really, the admission fee is worth it. Nearly 30 bands and 30 food and drink vendors will be at this community festival that also boasts a unique location. It truly doesn’t look or sound like any other festival, which is a feat in New Orleans.

Another aspect that Bayou Boogaloo does really well is book a variety of genres of music: In our glorious musical city, there isn’t always a place for performers outside of the jazz and brass band sound. One such group slated to play the Boogaloo for the first time this year is St. Lorelei, scheduled for Sunday, May 19 at 12:45 p.m. on the Port Orleans Dumaine Stage.

The band is fronted by singer/songwriter/rhythm guitarist Jo Morris, a hair stylist at Sweet Olive Salon on the edge of Treme and the Seventh Ward. Morris is joined by bandmates Marcus Bronson (bass, vocal harmony), Philip Cooper (keyboard), Alec Vance (lead guitar) and Steve Walkup (drums).

St. Lorelei has been together for just over a year and their sound is not typical of New Orleans, yet their moody melodies, introspective lyrics and even covers like Townes Van Zandt’s “Snake Song” will shine from the Dumaine Stage at the Boogaloo.

“Everyone in the band is excited to play Bayou Boogaloo for the first time of what we hope is many more,” said Morris. “It’s such a great opportunity for local bands, especially if you’re not a jazz band. And I think it’s something that locals really appreciate!”

Boogaloo makes room for other innovative local musicians this year, including Debauche, Valerie Sassyfras, Morning 40 Federation, and the funky rock band Omari Neville and the Fuel. The entire music schedule can be found online.

There are four entrance gates to the festival grounds between Dumaine Street and Lafitte Avenue where same-day general admission tickets can be purchased with cash or credit card for $10. Only weekend wristbands and VIP tickets are available for advance purchase online. Children under 12 are free.


Categories: Tourism Biz