May 032017

Friends of the Boogaloo held a crawfish boil for GiveNOLA Day to benefit the free fest. Crawfish was boiled by George from Mid-City Yacht Club (Claire Byun/cbyun@nolamessenger.com).

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.

Neighbors could donate whatever amount for the crawfish, with a suggested donation of $10 (Claire Byun).

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.

Zeller said organizers have considered charging admission for a few years, though this year the city “might force our hand.”

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.

  4 Responses to “Bayou Boogaloo organizers grappling with whether to monetize event”

  1. I don’t think $5000 will cut it. Trash was a huge problem last year and it’s not just at the festival itself but people walking to and from just throw trash everywhere. There wasn’t an attempt to pick up trash for several days and by that time most if it had blown into the bayou or the neighborhoods. This is completely unacceptable.

    That and the parking – we in the BSJ neighborhood already have to serve as the de facto parking lot for Jazz Fest and for several days around Endymion. If they need to charge admission to provide proper litter and parking control, then I’m all for it.

    By the way, it’s a shame that there are so few trees in the area. It could a really beautiful space, but strikes me as bare (not to mention very hot when the sun’s out). Maybe they can put some money towards trees and not just the one or two that the foundation touts.

    • I completely disagree. I live in Parkview and last year I saw boogaloo volunteers on golf carts in the streets every night and morning of the festival and through the following Tuesday picking up trash. They had people in kayaks grabbing debris and trash every day as well.

      For those that want to be around water, but not bothered with crowds, festivals and other things urban, I’ve got three words for you: Mississippi Gulf Coast. Go discover or rediscover our neighboring state and show some love. It’s never rowdy, always affordable, and only 45 minutes to an hour away. It feels like a world apart. Bay St. Louis and Ocean Springs are great getaways for a day trip.

      Bayou Boogaloo is great. It is a unique event that brings neighbors together and has a very responsible mission and organizer. Jared Zeller puts his money where his mouth is. We should be so lucky to have more folks like him in this town.

      • Maybe there was some trash pickup, but not nearly enough. I live just two blocks away and the festival area was cover in trash for days afterwards. If it’s not picked up immediately it is blown all over the place. As Louisiana is probably the trashiest state in the US, it’s easy to overlook, but I don’t think we should accept it at Boogaloo or any other festival.

        At the end of the day, it’s about an organization which uses public property and makes money off of it and doesn’t want to pay a fair price for that use. Especially since most of the space is blocked off long before and after the actual festival.

  2. As a Parkview resident I don’t find Boogaloo and subsequent trash an issue nearly as bad as Zulu outside its “designated” perimeter. We had people leaving whole empty boxes of Popeye’s leftover chicken bones and beer bottles everywhere for at least two days. And people parked right on tree roots on the Orleans neutral ground w no ramifications.

    However, if the city is going to charge then they need to do it for ALL public events–its not fair to single out Boogaloo. Do the art markets have to pay for public use of the land?
    What about the large crawfish boils people have? What IS the criteria for having to pay? Is there a fee because a permit is required? What about Krewe of Colossus? Religious Events? The Sheriffs’ event that takes place?
    We brought all these issues up to Susan Guidry almost a year ago at the PNA meeting and we were told the Council is “working” on it. 10 months later and we’re no further along w a solid plan for ALL.

    I would like to see tangible evidence that these organizations in fact paid a fee.

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