There’s certainly a lot of natural beauty and spirit oozing out of the small historic mill town of Bogalusa, Louisiana. “We are showing the world we have magic here,” exclaims Malinda White, founder and producer of the award-winning Bogalusa Blues & Heritage Festival. After an entire year of preparation, White and dozens of volunteers are getting ready for the throngs of music lovers who will converge on Cassidy Park Sept. 29 and 30. “We are expecting five-to- ten-thousand people for our sixth year!”
Those visitors, who traditionally come from all over the world, will descend upon what is known as the birthplace of such notables as Professor Long Hair (the famous Blues Hall of Fame Inductee), James Crutchfield (barrelhouse blues piano player), and Snoozer Quinn, pioneer of jazz guitar.
White promises a live music experience unlike any other – an intangible force that draws thousands to take in the interplay among its highly-skilled musicians. “The line-up is purposely done, and a lot of these artists know each other, and we expect unique dynamics when they play with each other," says White. "You can’t see that interaction anywhere, where they bring on different artists on stage with them.”
Speaking of a great lineup, The Bogalusa Blues and Heritage Festival is far more than unique chords and rhythms that come from traditional blues music – there is something for every type of music lover. The headliners and local favorite include North Mississippi All-Stars, Anders Osborne, Louisiana’s LeRoux, Samantha Fish, Tea J. Moore, and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux.
There’s a Blues Stage, where festival-goers will hear all styles of blues. “We’ve got blues from the hill country, the Delta, Texas, and Chicago—all with their diverse sounds are in the mix,” says White. Meanwhile, on the Heritage Stage, you’ll find artists playing a wide array of music genres of the region, all to promote the ‘gumbo of music.’ There will be country, zydeco, jazz, funk and rock and roll, (including Louisiana’s LeRoux, which recorded "New Orleans Ladies" right in Bogalusa at the historic Studio in the Country).
Courtesy of Mother Nature, what a great sound is heard during the two-day festival from all corners of the grounds. The trees that surround both stages act as a natural sound-buffer, making the sound clear to the ear, and, according to White, unlike any other setting. “We call it the tree verb—the music just bounces off the trees, not buildings.”
The natural setting and beautiful landscape can’t be beat; the pine trees, the Bogalusa Creek and sandy beach encircle the festival and make Cassidy Park the perfect place to pitch a tent. Speaking of a tent, organizers say pitching a tent is the best way to experience the festival. “This changes the ambiance of the festival, and allows you to continue enjoying the music and artists,” explains White. (Tip: Having a tent allows you to take a break and still hear the music, says locals.)
While the RV spots are nearly sold out, White says there’s a shower trailer that’s air-conditioned and provides heated water for bathing (as well as a vanity); plus, the park also provides ice for tent campers.
If you need more lodging options, check out Berry Creek Cabins, the Magnolia Garden Inn and Suites, or the Travelers Rest Motel. These accommodations, including the Berry Creek Cabins, all provide RV hook ups.
This festival is also very family-friendly, with many offerings for the kids and the kids at heart. Children can enjoy bounce houses, a train ride around the park and a rock-climbing wall, to name a few. Perhaps one of the best experiences is at the Pioneer Museum on site, which is where kids can take part in harmonica lessons, a drumming circle and native American story-telling by some of the best in the region. (Tip: Get to the harmonica lessons as early as possible to make sure you get a free harmonica—available while supplies last.) The blues-themed music artwork from children of area schools will be displayed at the museum. (Tip: Kids 12-and-under get into the festival for free.)
Don’t miss the viewing of the award-winning documentary "Bogalusa Charm" at 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. White says this insightful, yet comedic, film depicts an actual charm school that was located in Bogalusa and attended by girls from around the region. “It’s charming and hilarious and really captures the culture of a southern city; the epitome of Southern living,” said White.
Attendees will also have access to some of the best cultural art offered in the region – local artists and vendors carrying their uniquely made handcrafted wares will be on hand at the festival. (Commercial vendors are not permitted into the event)
Hungry? Some of the best Southern dishes will be sold at the festival, including jambalaya, crawfish pies, shrimp and grits, seafood platters and mouthwatering barbecue.
“This event is run like a well-oiled machine, and our online tickets sales have outpaced prior years,” adds White. “It’s going to be a great year.” Ticket prices are cheaper online; you can get a two-day pass for $25, Friday-only for $10, and Saturday-only for $15. If you have to purchase your tickets at the gate, it’s an additional $10 for a two-day pass and an extra $5 for a one-day ticket.
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