Festivals/Fairs

What to Do-Do-Do at the Bayou Boogaloo

How to get there, what to eat, who’s performing, and what else you need to know for the Boogaloo

Got your wide, floppy-brimmed hat, ready?

Check! ✅

And some sort of floating water vessel?

Check! ✅

How about that SPF 100 sunscreen?

Check, ✅ check ✅, check ✅!

Well, then, it sounds like you’re just about ready for Bayou Boogaloo, Mid-City’s favorite waterside festival. But, while it’s geographically smaller than its older cousins, Jazz Fest and French Quarter Fest, there’s a lot more to the Boogaloo than meets the eye.

This guide will help remind you of what you already know and love about this festival on the bayou, while also introducing you to a few of the components you might otherwise miss!

The Basics

Bayou Boogaloo kicked off for the first time back in 2006 as a way to reinvigorate the people of post-Katrina New Orleans, as well as to inspire rebuilding in Mid-City. It was a one-day, one-stage event, attracting nearly 5,000 attendees.

These days, things look a little different as the three-day, four-stage extravaganza brings in as many as 35,000 visitors!

Entry is $10. The money helps the Friends of Bayou St. John put on the Boogaloo, as well as support local nonprofit organizations like Friends of Lafitte Greenway, the Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association, Morris Jeff Community School and several others. So don’t forget to bring a little cash to show how much you care!

The biggest decision to make is whether you want to celebrate the Boogaloo by land or by sea. The good news is there’s really no bad option!

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Just some Bayou friends

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While thousands of New Orleanians walk along the bayou’s shores, sampling all the festival has to offer, hundreds more enjoy it from the water — in everything from inflatable tubes and individual kayaks, to large homemade flotillas. Imagine the Bywater’s St. Anne’s Parade on Fat Tuesday, but on water, and in the summer.

And, because we all understand the only bad part of a festival is finding parking, biking is probably the best way to go. Don’t forget — Blue Bikes are an option!

If you need to drive, take a look at these paid parking options. Free street parking spots will be few and far between, and you’ll notice that driving around for an hour looking for a parking spot is not on this list of fun ways to celebrate the Boogaloo. So don’t do it!

Catch Some Tunes

Bayou Boogaloo has 25 acts to choose from so fans of just about any genre will likely find something they’ll love!

The festival gets off to a hot start on Friday with a performance by Debauche — the self-proclaimed Russian Mafia Band — at 6:45 p.m., playing wildly entertaining punk rock hooligan street songs. I wouldn’t consider myself a punk rock fan — or a fan of the Russian Mafia, come to think of it — but I’ve seen this band perform a half-dozen times and it’s always a high-energy, sweaty, good-time!

After that, head over to the main stage for local star, Anders Osborne, who’ll entertain us with his diverse repertoire of Americana, rock, rhythm and blues, and blues music.

On Saturday, the festival features the Soul Rebels, Little Freddie King and Cowboy Mouth, and it closes Sunday night with hometown favorites Amanda Shaw and Tab Benoit.

And, of course, take a look at the full music schedule, which includes tons of acts for the children among us at The Ruby Slipper Cafe Kids Stage!

Get Your Food and Drink On

I know, I know — it’s tempting to pack a lunch and a cooler full of beers and sail into the Bayou Boogaloo like a pirate. Pirates, after all, don’t have to pay for their food at festivals.

But, here’s the thing: Have you ever seen a festival with a lot of pirates? No, you haven’t.

Do you know why? BECAUSE NOBODY PAYS FOR THE FOOD OR DRINKS AND THEY HAVE TO SHUT THE FESTIVAL DOWN.

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So come to the festival and spend some dough on the hardworking vendors out there to provide you with sustenance! With 30 local restaurants represented, there are lots of great options from which to choose.

This Jazz Fest, I fell in love with the garlic rib-eye beef po-boy from Ajun Cajun. And, as you can probably imagine, since I’m writing about them in an article for Bayou Boogaloo, they’ll be at Bayou Boogaloo, too! Don’t miss this sandwich!

New Orleans heavyweights, like Blue Oak BBQ, Boucherie, Bratz Y’all, Clesi’s Restaurant and many others will also be on-hand, including what I believe to be the greatest fried chicken sandwich in the city! They’re known by Southerns on Facebook, but it looks like they might be going by “Bonafried” at the Boogaloo.

Their chicken sandwiches come in three heat levels, none of which are prohibitively hot. To my taste, the middle level takes the trophy!

And, obviously, there’ll also be plenty of beverages at the fest, both alcoholic and otherwise. A Boogaloo favorite is the Root Beer Floats, which are sold by the Root Beer Float float, manned by Friends of Lafitte Greenway, on the bank of the bayou and can be accessed by land AND by water! This year they added a brand new, first-time-ever item: a Satsuma Dreamsicle drink!

Race by Boat and Crawl by Bike

There are a pair of really fun, and active, Saturday morning events that begin well before the Boogaloo starts for the day.

The Paddle Battle Boat Races accept entrants racing kayaks and canoes of varying sizes, as well as stand-up paddleboards on Bayou St. John! Race categories are also broken down by skill level, gender and race length so you’ve got lots of options.

Races are $35 per entry and open to all ages. You can register here and heats begin on Saturday at 8:30 a.m. Check-in is between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m., and if you don’t have a boat, don’t worry about it! You can rent a kayak for the race here.

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Some family Paddle Battle Winners

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If you’re looking for something a little less intense with a little more beer, consider the Bicycle Pub Crawl taking place that same morning. Participants will gather at 8:30 a.m. at Wrong Iron on the Lafitte Greenway.

The crawl will make stops at Clesi’s Restaurant, MoPho, Swirl Wine Bar and the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club before ending at the Boogaloo by about 1:30 p.m.

This is a fundraiser for The Mid-City Volleyball Group, which provides outdoor volleyball opportunities for players of all skill levels. There is a suggested donation of $20, and participants can expect a relaxing bike ride with treats that include some free food, live music and a splash of local history. The drinks — alcoholic and not — are for you to purchase, though!

Register for the event here so organizers can get an accurate head count.

Take Time to Get Crafty

If you have kids, you know that Mother’s Day is long gone and now it’s once again all about those selfish little monsters (I mean, “angels”). Fortunately, right next to tons of programming at The Ruby Slipper Cafe Kids Stage is an interactive Arts & Crafts Tent with fun activities for children of all ages.

There are activities for those angel-monsters to enjoy on, both, Saturday and Sunday, from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.

But the arts scene isn’t only for those kids at Bayou Boogaloo. More than 60 local craftspeople showcase their creative wares throughout the festival. Do yourself a favor and make some time to take a look at what the various booths at the Art Market and Marketplace has for you!

Doing Good Having Fun

Bayou St. John is the big star of this action-packed weekend, but anyone who’s ever looked at the street after a Mardi Gras parade knows how much trash comes with big parties. Fortunately, festival organizers and local nonprofits are determined to leave the bayou in even better shape than they found it at the start of the festival.

And there are two ways you can help!

Meet on the Carrollton side of the Orleans Avenue bridge at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 19 or Monday, May 20 and join the Boogaloo’s Bank and Bayou Clean Ups! You’ll help organizers pick up litter around the festival grounds, including the bayou itself. You bring gloves and any other helpful equipment you have, and they’ll have garbage bags, grabbers and a few kayaks so you can retrieve trash on the water.

Volunteering to clean up will get you some cool schwag, as well as an entry into the “Cash for Trash” raffle. But that’s not the only way to win one of the raffle’s amazing prizes.

Go to the Canopy Club entrance next to the Friends of Bayou St. John Orleans Stage, or to the Volunteer Check-in at Orleans Avenue and Jefferson Davis Parkway during the festival to pick up a recyclable bag. If you fill up the bag with recyclables you see at the fest and return the bag to the same place by 6 p.m. any day of the festival, you’ll be entered in the raffle!

And what’s so good about this raffle? Well, besides the good you’ll be doing for your neighborhood and the environment, the prizes are out of this world!

If you’re looking for a different kind of volunteer opportunity, you can take a look at what help is still needed!

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So, as you can see, no matter how you like to fest, there’s a lot to look forward to this weekend at the Boogaloo. So let’s all do a dance for good weather, and enjoy a day (or two or three) at this Mid-City gem!

Writer Matt Haines lives in New Orleans. Follow him at matthaineswrites.com, and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.