Three New Orleans Festivals You Don't Know About But Should
By Jamie Albaum
The true underdogs of festival season
With King Cake Festival just behind us, and Mardi Gras barely weeks away, New Orleans festivals are already in full swing. It’s no secret that we find any excuse to celebrate in the Big Easy. The number of festivals continues to grow every year, with Beignet Fest and Fried Chicken Fest making their inaugural debuts in 2016, leaving me to wonder which smaller festivals may have gotten lost in the fray.
I’m here to give some long overdue attention to a few of the most fun, most niche, and most underrated festivals the city has to offer. In no particular order, here are three of these humble heroes:
A familiar corridor for the better-known Poboy Fest, Oak Street is also home to one of the best music festivals in New Orleans. Though obviously not on nearly as grand a scale as Jazz or Voodoo Fest, the Oak Street Block Party still manages three stages hosting local bands from morning till night. Food isn’t featured as prominently here, but beer is in abundance thanks to sponsorship from Abita. Make no mistake, this one is all about the music, with a heavy nod to jazz and blues. One of the stages, in fact, is located in the famous Maple Leaf Bar. The Block Party takes place in late April. It’s a great way for us to soak up one last bit of New Orleans before going our separate ways for the summer, and give us something to long for when we come back.
In a city beloved for its bivalves it’s no surprise that there’s an entire festival devoted to them, but for some unfathomable reason this one doesn’t get the notoriety it deserves. For those of you sticking around NOLA for the summer, brace yourselves for this awesome two-day event that gathers the best seafood restaurants in the city. This one brings in some real-deal oyster houses, like Superior Seafood, Drago’s, and Acme. If you’re looking to live dangerously, Acme hosts the World Oyster Eating Championship. If you don’t want to put yourself through that kind of an ordeal, you can still engage your competitive spirit at the oyster shucking contest. In true New Orleans fashion, live music fills the air, the perfect soundtrack for your stroll through the vendor tents to pick up some oyster-themed swag. And while you may have to pay for the merch, entry into this festival is completely free.
Ok you got me, I know this one isn’t technically in New Orleans, but it is so wildly underappreciated that it needed to be mentioned. Ponchatoula Strawberry Fest is an epic celebration of Louisiana’s beloved strawberry. Taking place over a three-day weekend, over 300,000 people come from all over Louisiana to bask in this county fair-style festival. "The Strawberry Festival is just about as local as you can get… It’s a friendly, familiar kind of festival," said a festival volunteer to the Times Picayune in 2013. There are so many strawberry treats and drinks to indulge in: strawberry cheesecakes, chocolate covered strawberries, strawberry smoothies, and the treasured strawberry daiquiris. Fear not, however, if strawberries aren’t your thing. There are two music stages, carnival rides (yes, there’s a ferris wheel), and carnival activities like egg tosses, and sack races. Strawberry Fest is the quintessential celebration of summer, and certainly one that’s not to be missed.