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Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo celebrates its 10th anniversary

The Bayou St. John music and culture fest happens May 15-17



Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo marks its 10th anniversary this year, and in that decade it has grown to feature three days of live music on three stages, a large art market, bicycling events, kids' activities, more than 25 food vendors and a VIP area.

  "We try to bring in a new element every year to keep it fresh and interesting," says director Jared Zeller. "Since we're running out of space, we're going to start moving into the water a little bit."

  Zeller plans to expand festival hours for paddle sport racing. From 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Sunday, boaters will be able to compete with canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and homemade vessels. The festival also will feature courtesy docks along Bayou St. John for those who use boats to get to the festival. Bar booths have been moved closer to the docks to accommodate boaters.

  Eventually, Zeller hopes to bring bar booths onto floating docks, but this year is taking the "first plunge" at placing vendors in the bayou with a waterborne root beer float stand, staffed by Friends of Lafitte Greenway members. Part of the proceeds will go toward expansion of the 2.6-mile park and bicycle trail connecting the French Quarter and Mid-City and is slated to open this summer.

  "We have a need to expand our programming," Zeller says. "There's only one festival I think in New Orleans where you can show up (on festival grounds) in a canoe or kayak, and so we want to celebrate that."

  Musical programming has expanded as well. More than 50 bands are scheduled to play on the Orleans Stage, the Dumaine Stage, the Lafitte Stage and in the Kids Tent. The lineup features New Orleans and south Louisiana bands and runs the gamut from country and rock to hip-hop, funk and zydeco.

  The festival has always had an array of New Orleans jazz-funk bands. The 101 Runners (4:40 p.m. Sunday) bring Mardi Gras Indian songs and percussion to the stage. Ivan Neville performs with his band Dumpstaphunk (7 p.m. Sunday), and all-star group New Orleans Suspects features former Radiators bass player Reggie Scanlan, former Neville Brothers drummer "Mean" Willie Green and Jake Eckert, who was the lead guitarist in Dirty Dozen Brass Band, which also performs at Bayou Boogaloo (7:45 p.m. Saturday).

  "This will be fun (to play) because it's a smaller fest than Jazz Fest or French Quarter Fest, and so it's got a more intimate feel," Scanlan says. He notes the band will play new songs from its recent release Ouroboros.

  Headliners also include Grammy Award-winner Terrance Simien & The Zydeco Experience (7:45 p.m. Friday). Simien is an eighth-generation Creole who has performed nearly 30 times at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Local electric instrumental band Woodenhead (6:30 p.m. Saturday) is celebrating its 40th anniversary this summer.

  Cajun fiddler Louis Michot and zydeco accordionist Corey Ledet lead Soul Creole in a performance at 12:15 p.m. Saturday.

  Indie rockers Rotary Downs perform at 6 p.m. Sunday, following the rock, funk and blues outfit N'Awlins Johnny (4:15 p.m. Sunday). Bluesy Southern singer/songwriter Kristin Diable performs at 7:15 p.m. Saturday. Trombonist Carly Meyers leads the punk rock band Yojimbo at 5:35 p.m. Saturday.

  New to Bayou Boogaloo this year is Christian Serpas, the country music bandleader who fuses honky-tonk and rock 'n' roll guitar (2:30 p.m. Sunday). Rapper and hip-hop artist Mannie Fresh performs at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

  Singer/songwriter Erica Falls makes her Bayou Boogaloo debut as a solo artist (4 p.m. Saturday). "I am so excited," Falls says. "People will be hanging out in their boats, hanging out with their kids. I love festivals and I'm very excited to do my own thing this time."

  With growth comes growing pains, and Zeller says he's learned a few lessons in Boogaloo's 10 years. The festival now draws an estimated 38,000 people and the art market features more than 70 artists. Zeller has heard complaints about traffic and parking congestion.

  This year, streets around the festival including Moss Street between Dumaine and Toulouse streets will be blocked to traffic. Zeller also has secured parking near The Cannery at 3803 Toulouse Street and at the future location of the Deutches Haus at 1700 Moss Street.

  "We're trying to keep neighbors in Parkview happy," Zeller says.

  At recent festivals, Zeller has fundraised to support neighborhood projects, he says. This year, he will use proceeds from tickets to the festival's VIP area, called the Canopy Club (passes cost $250 and include parking, air-conditioned restrooms and a bar), to fund permanent trash cans and waste stations along Bayou St. John.

  "It's really become so much more than I ever imagined," Zeller says, laughing. "Originally, it was just 'Let's build a party to celebrate the neighborhood.' Now, Mid-City has become quite the hot spot, and we're faced with how we control the growth of the festival."

Click here for the Bayou Boogaloo Music schedule

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