Bayou Boogaloo, a spring music and food festival at the southern end of downtown Bayou St. John, is back after being in dry dock for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on previous attendance, more than 14,000 people will cheer for the concert on Friday, Saturday and Sunday on the festival’s three stages, patronizing food and beverage stalls and perusing craft tents. Others will float and drift in fleets of rafts, kayaks and canoes that usually gather between the banks of the estuary.
The advent of the sun-drenched waterside festival will mark yet another milestone in the city’s return to normalcy. But Boogaloo has changed since its last festival three years ago.
The festival introduced admission fees for the first time in 2019 at $10 per day. This year, enrollment has doubled or even tripled. For tickets purchased in advance, the individual daily admission fee remains at $10 on Fridays, but increases to $20 on Saturdays and Sundays. At the gate, daily admission is $15 on Fridays and $30 on Saturdays and Sundays. Children under 12 attend free.
Although those who walked in were charged an admission fee for the 2019 Boogaloo, kayakers and kayakers can still count Bayou St. John into the festival without paying an admission fee. But no more.
This year, estuary boaters will encounter a segmented floating barricade near the Dumaine Street bridge, leading them to the bank and asking them to pay a fee. Another boat entrance is on Norman C. Francis Boulevard near the Lafayette Greenway.
And, for the first time, those Robinson Crusoe who choose to build their own makeshift rafts will be asked to set aside time to assemble them and place them at the southernmost tip of the estuary, and they will be asked to pay a $150 deposit. If the boat is successfully kept afloat and the builders remove it from the estuary, their $150 will be refunded.
More new features
Landlubbers will pass through four entrances on Dumaine Avenue and Lafitte Street, and two on Orleans Avenue. The festival’s footprint will be bigger this year, with the Orleans Avenue entrance located a block further from the estuary than in previous years, and — according to a map on the festival’s website — some intersections will be closed to one block from the estuary. estuary to better control traffic around the busy site.
This year, Ideal Discount Gas Station and Convenience Food Market will be part of the festival as a kind of general store. Drinks in glass containers will not be sold at the station during the festival.
Boogaloo plans to experiment with cashless sales in 2022. Some attendees will buy wristbands to withdraw funds from their credit cards to buy food or drinks. Payment options for some other sales, including those in the craft area, will be determined by the supplier.
According to festival producer Jared Zeller, the festival will install some fencing to regulate access to the festival grounds and protect neighbors’ property, but at the time of writing he said he wasn’t sure exactly where.
Rising costs and safety concerns
Zeller said most of the changes that partygoers will encounter in 2022 reflect the rising cost of hosting large parties and increased safety concerns. For example, since 2019, the price of hiring off-duty NOPD personnel has risen from $35 to $45 an hour, and private security guards have risen from $15 to $22 an hour, he said.
Sadly, Zeller said, New Orleans has an undeniable high rate of gun violence, so those attending the Bayou Boogaloo will go through metal detectors for the first time to keep weapons out of the scene.
Insurance costs have also “surged” since 2019, Zeller said.
The location of the festival is especially problematic. On the one hand, the estuary’s banks are open to surrounding communities, which leaves the stage and hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment vulnerable to theft or vandalism, Zeller said. “We don’t just lock the door when we leave,” he said. “It’s a street party in downtown New Orleans.”
But more worrisome than that is the estuary itself, which despite its idyllic appearance is a hazard, and regulating water behaviour is key to keeping insurance costs down. Zeller said he was concerned about someone getting injured on underwater debris or, worst of all, an unattended child drowning. Swimming is not allowed, nor are inflatable doughnut-shaped tubes and other similar bottomless floats, he said. “A hole (in one’s float) indicates you’re swimming,” Zeller said.
Overall, Zeller said, he estimates the production cost of the Bayou Boogaloo to be between $650,000 and $670,000. He expects this year’s event to cost $700,000. The first Bayou Boogaloo in 2006 cost $50,000, he recalls musingly.
Bayou Boogaloo was produced on behalf of the Friends of the Bayou St. John nonprofit organization with funding to “promote stewardship, cultural appreciation, responsible recreation and initiatives in support of clean, healthy Bayou St. John for all “. to the festival website.