By Claire Byun
Bayou Boogaloo organizers are readying for the 12th annual festival, though they’re still ironing out a few details – including a lease with the city.
Unlike past years, the city is seeking $20,000 from the Mothership Foundation – which produces the free fest – to use the land around Bayou St. John for the weekend. Instead, organizers have proposed a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with the city that dedicates $5,000 per year toward tree upkeep and litter abatement along the Bayou. Jared Zeller, president of Mothership Foundation, was on hand Tuesday evening to answer questions about the festival to members of the Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association.
Zeller said the foundation offered up a CEA to the city instead of paying a festival fee to make sure funding goes toward upkeep of the bayou.
“The festival is really at a crossroads right now,” Zeller said. “What we’re asking for is some support from the neighborhood association.”
Mothership Foundation, along with Friends of the Boogaloo, held a crawfish boil Tuesday afternoon at Kennedy Place off Urselines Avenue. The boil was meant to show support for the free festival and give neighbors a chance to support the foundation on GiveNOLA Day, Zeller said.
The Boogaloo is the signature program of the Mothership Foundation, which encourages social change by motivating citizens to actively engage themselves in matters that affect their community, collaborate with other organizations, build awareness for local initiatives and demand a focus on arts, culture and recreational opportunities as the city continually develops.
“We’re all out of crawfish, so I’d say it was a success,” Zeller said, noting the boil started with 320 pounds of seafood.
The Faubourg St. John association voted to draft a letter to council addressing the benefits of the festival – including how much money it raises for FSJNA – as well as a list of concerns about the festival’s future. Members voiced concern that the festival would outgrow its space and interfere with the surrounding neighborhoods, including Faubourg St. John and Parkview.
Zeller said there are no plans to expand the festival, and organizers are keeping the same amount of stages and booths as years before. Two more parking lots are available this year too, Zeller said, which should cut down on the number of people parking in neighborhoods. With a total of seven parking lots – and about 1,200 spots – this year’s festival shouldn’t inconvenience too many residents.
“Right now, I can’t handle any more people at the festival,” Zeller said.
Jim Danner, FSJNA vice president, said he’s open to supporting the Cooperate Endeavor Agreement as long as the festival remains at a steady size. Sarah Stogner, FSJNA president, said she understands the impulse to keep the festival free and open to the public, but sees a benefit in charging people a general admission – especially to keep the crowd size stable.
Bayou Boogaloo is the biggest yearly fundraiser for FSJNA.
Zeller said organizers have considered charging admission for a few years, though this year the city “might force our hand.”
“It’s more complicated than I ever thought it would be,” Zeller said.
The Boogaloo draws local acts but refrains from booking big-name bands because of it’s size and lack of admission. More famous headliners usually require a deposit, which the Mothership Foundation cannot afford, Zeller said. Last year’s festivities included a $40,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, but this year’s donation topped off at around $10,000.
Still, if the event eventually ends up costing a few bucks, Stogner said it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
“Obviously I like having a free event, I think it’s a benefit to the neighborhood, but I also realize the city needs money,” she said. “If they have to charge people $5 to get in, so be it.”
The Boogaloo runs May 19-21 and features more than 25 bands and artists. General admission is free and Membership, Canopy and VIP tickets are also available on the event’s website.