Bayou Boogaloo bounces back from a wicked storm

5 months ago The Times-Picayune 0

It’s a small miracle that Bayou Boogaloo, the annual music, food and craft festival in Mid-City, opened on time Saturday (May 19) morning at 11 a.m., after a wicked early summer storm ripped across the site just hours before.

On the eve of the fest’s Friday opening, high winds tumbled a row of concession booths onto an adjacent city street, collapsed several craft vendor tents, battered the music stages and killed electrical power. What the wind didn’t disrupt, the rain did.

But the wind has died, the parched ground along Bayou St. John has soaked up the rain, generators are pumping out juice and the stage speakers are blasting a Dr. John recording to prove their concert-worthiness. Festival founder Jared Zeller said the amazing bounce back was due to “the most dedicated, resilient people.”

We couldn’t be prouder or luckier,” he added.

On the other hand, the 13th Bayou Boogaloo couldn’t have been much less lucky. As the popular festival approached, Zeller announced that, for the first time, organizers would charge admission after 3 p.m. each afternoon. Ironically, he explained that the charge would help protect the non-profit festival from the possibility of a financially disastrous rainout.

But Zeller said May 14 the city prohibited him from charging admission in 2018 without further time to consider the matter, though Zeller said he had received permission to proceed from the previous Landrieu administration. And so, the 2018 festival is free, though donations are accepted at the entrances.

Zeller said the festival pays a fee of roughly $12,000 (including in-kind property improvements) to the city for the use of the festival site. The Bayou waterway, he said, is under state jurisdiction.

Jared Zeller, Bayou Boogaloo founder (Photo by Doug MacCash, | The Times-Picayune)

The festival, which costs roughly $650,000, took a big financial hit Friday. Zeller said he’s unsure how much money was lost due to the deluge. He said the damage to stage equipment is still not completely known but he’s hopeful the festival’s rain insurance will pay roughly $50,000. He said he’s also hopeful the city may see fit to help out as well.

Dr. Brice Miller, the city’s new director of the Office of Cultural Economy, was onsite Saturday, and newly-minted Mayor LaToya Cantrell was expected to pay a visit.

A pie chart displayed at the festival notes the festival budget includes $320,360 for operating expenses, $108,116 for in-kind contributions, $107,257 for productions (lights, sound, stages), $84,453 for supplies and $68,715 for music programming.

Ben Faulks, director of the Positive Vibrations Foundation that pays musicians’ fees at Bayou Boogaloo, said his organization will compensate the musicians who were rained out Friday.

Zeller said 60 percent of Bayou Boogaloo’s income is from beer sales.

Zeller said he believes 70 percent of the festival concessions are up and running, and about half the craft sellers are in business.

Boogaloo continues Saturday through 9:15 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.