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Bayou Boogaloo festival will go on in May, but without the bayou

Liz Grippe and Joe Barre II, dance to the Cha Wa band during the 2018 Bayou Boogaloo. Cha Wa is playing Sunday at Boogaloo in Exile. (Zach Brien, Mid-City Messenger file photo)

The Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo will take place on its usual mid-May weekend this year, featuring top local musical acts like the New Orleans Nightcrawlers, 101 Runners, Cha Wa and Tank & the Bangas, plus an art market.

There’s one major difference, however: There will be no bayou at the 2021 Bayou Boogaloo. No kayaks, no party rafts, no one floating around on big inflated flamingos. Also — an important difference in the COVID era — no packed crowds.

The Boogaloo is normally a four-stage, three-day festival that attracts roughly 35,000 people annually. This year, Boogaloo in Exile will have one stage, higher admission prices and smaller crowds.

Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo in Exile is mostly taking place at The Broadside, except for a patron party with a concert that can be attended virtually.

Just like in normal years, the three nights of music and art will raise money to preserve and protect Bayou St. John. The Friends of Bayou St. John nonprofit partners with other organizations on projects such as restoring the tree canopy along the bayou and removing trash from the bayou and its banks.

Friends of Bayou St.John projects for 2020 and 2021 include monthly bayou cleanups, ongoing litter abatement, Christmas tree immersion to create habitats for fish and installation of anti-litter signage along the banks.

“If there is one thing we’ve learned in the past year, it’s the value of our outdoor spaces and natural environments,” said Jared Zeller, founder of the Friends of Bayou St. John and the Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo. “Bayou St. John has been a true refuge throughout the pandemic, providing much-needed outdoor recreation, beauty and space to breathe.” 

Festival attendees gather on Bayou St. John during the 2019 Bayou Boogaloo. (Zach Brien, Mid-City Messenger file photo)

On Friday, May 14, from 6 to 10 p.m. at The Funky Uncle, the Friends of Bayou St. John Patron Party will feature the North Mississippi Allstars, presented by National Endowment for the Arts.

Only 50 tickets will be sold for this event, and they will only go to members of the Friends of Bayou St. John. The cost is $125 per person for two sets of music plus dinner and an open bar.

The show will also be live-streamed for free.

The New Orleans Nightcrawlers

On Saturday, May 15, from 3 to 10:30 p.m., the Boogaloo will take over The Broadside, 600 N. Broad St.

The art market will be open during entire event. From 6 to to 7:30 p.m., the Mardi Gras Indian funk band 101 Runners will play. Then from 8:15 to 10 p.m., the New Orleans Nightcrawlers, fresh from their 2021 Grammy win, will take the stage.

Tickets for May 15 are $25 per person in advance and $35 at door. If you just want to browse the art market, that’s free. 

Kids under 12 are admitted free, and there will be activities for children, just like at any other Bayou Boogaloo. 

Tank & the Bangas

On Sunday, May 16, from 3 to 10 p.m., Boogaloo in Exile will return to The Broadside.

Sunday will feature two Grammy-nominated bands, Cha Wa  and Tank & the Bangas.  

Cha Wa brings its Mardi Gras Indian funk sounds to the stage from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Then Tank & the Bangas will close out the exiled festival, playing from 7:15 to 8:45 p.m. 

The art market and kids activities will run from 3 to 9 p.m., and access is free. Children under 12 also get in free. 

Tickets are $30 in advance and $40 at door. They’re available here

For updates, check the Bayou Boogaloo website,

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