Energetic crowds, live music and colorful beads — all the ingredients you need to kick off a successful Mardi Gras festival. It might not be New Orleans, but the 3rd Annual Baton Rouge Mardi Gras Festival is leaving its mark as one of the top Mardi Gras festivals in Louisiana. The festival will be held at North Boulevard Town Square on the Galvez Stage on Saturday, Feb. 6 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 200 North Blvd.
The festival is organized by local musician Henry Turner Jr., who realized there was no Mardi Gras festival that Baton Rouge could call its own.
“I always try to look at the local market and open market gaps,” said Turner. “And I just find things the city needs musically or entertainment-wise, and I try to initiate it or give somebody an idea to see it to fruition.”
Some people believe that all there is to do in Baton Rouge for Mardi Gras is the Spanish Town parade, and according to Turner, the very first year of the festival, people would walk right past the event without realizing anything was going on.
“The second year changed drastically when we got some Mardi Gras Indians to come down, and I got some of my old producing friends from the annual Bob Marley Festival to take over the vendors and bring regional vendors to the event,” said Turner. “So we got a lot more traction, and we started to get the local city folks into the event.”
According to Turner, the response from the general public went from ‘Is this an event?’ to ‘Hey, when is the Mardi Gras Festival?’
“Now people are realizing we have a Mardi Gras festival of our own,” said Turner.
But there is no need to fear if the festival will compete with going to the parade. Many parade goers either come to the festival early as 10 a.m. to party for a little while, or do so after the parade has ended with the festival going on well into the evening.
“It gives us an opportunity to be the pre and the after party for the Spanish Town parade,” said Turner. “We try not to duplicate what’s going on with the parade.”
What the festival offers instead is a full day of entertainment with nonstop, live music onstage throughout the day. Headlining the festival is Henry Turner Jr. & Flavor, along with R&B singer Raven Salve from Pensacola, Florida; NakEdtruth, a Hip Hop artist from Thibodaux; Kyndra Joi and Soul Theory, a Funk and Soul band from Gretna; the R&B and Soul singer D-Whit; Terri Lynn and Blue Thunder, a blues, jazz and rock band from Mt. Juliet, Tennessee; King Baby, a Reggae Rock band from Houston; blues legends SmokeHouse Porter and Miss Mamie; the South Florida Reggae band Spred the Dub and an International Hour produced by Monika Olivier. According to Turner, the bands selected to play fit into the Louisiana theme or are bands from across the region who have never experienced Mardi Gras before. The ultimate goal for the festival according to Turner is “to see Baton Rouge fully developed in the festival arena, the live music arena, and the original music arena.”
“We know New Orleans has a major tourist attraction, and they do a really good job of hosting and entertaining tourists, and we feel that as the largest population [in Louisiana] we should be doing the very same thing,” said Turner.
The family-friendly event also features a vendor village, visual artists and festival food favorites. Along with that will be the “Taste of Louisiana,” which will offer Louisiana cuisine throughout the day. VIP tickets for a “Taste of Louisiana” meal that includes photo opportunities with the talent are $25.00.
“Some people come just for the food,” said Turner.
Before the festival begins there will also be a VIP pre-party and fundraiser on Thursday, Feb. 4 at Henry Turner Jr.’s Listening Room from 6 p.m. to midnight. The event will be held at the Belle of Baton Rouge Casino and Hotel. Expected to perform are the Sunrise Brass Band Family, April N. Jackson, Larry “LZ” Dillon, Nukie Miller, Miss Fenxx, Clarence “Pie Man” Williams, The Sun Room, the Bayou Bullets and Henry Turner Jr. & Flavor, among others. Spinning tunes is DJ Chat. The event will open with a Second Line performing outside the entrance, and the audience will be led into the venue for the show. Proceeds from the VIP pre-party go toward funding the Baton Rouge Mardi Gras Festival.
“We’re playing an intricate part in making history in Baton Rouge in terms of getting into the Mardi Gras Festival mentality,” said Turner.
For additional information, please visit brmardigrasfest.com or call 225-802-9681.