Another Round: Best of the Bayou II kicks off Sept. 28

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Best of the Bayou is back for its second year, and this time, it’s going to look a little different.

The two-day, free-admission festival returns Sept. 28-29. Open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and from 11-7 on Sunday, the festival is anchored by music but also features arts, crafts and cuisine indigenous to south Louisiana.

Robert Randolph, Anders Osborne, Jason Isbell, Kermit Ruffins, Ivan Neville and Steve Riley are among the headline performers, topping a list of local, regional and national draws. Best of the Bayou is meant to flaunt the area’s tourism potential, with the musicians on hand serving as the magnet.

“Our (entertainment) committee did a great job,” said Billy Foster, festival chairman.

Organizers learned from the initial festival last year and changes are in store. Most notably, the festival layout has been streamlined to make Houma’s Main Street the centerpiece.

“One of the criticisms that we got last year was, ‘Man, there’s nothing in between from one stage to the next,’” Foster said. “Hopefully, it will look like a continuous promenade, boardwalk-type atmosphere from one end to the other.”

Boudin Bayou, the larger of two music stages, is plotted for an empty lot near Barrow Street. Festivalgoers who walk toward the other end of Main would first pass one of two food-court areas. A children’s zone is set up in the Whitney Bank parking lot at Roussell. Between Roussell and Goode streets are arts and crafts booths, then more food booths before the Gulf Groove stage angled near the intersection of Grinage and Main.

Arts and crafts booth spaces are rented for $200 (the early-bird deadline was Aug. 19), plus a $25 electricity fee for those who need power. Artists who sell original wares can do so without the burden of sales tax, as Houma is a state-designated cultural district.

Houma Police are set to begin bagging parking meters downtown at noon on Friday, Sept. 27. Barricades follow at 6 p.m., as Main Street is shut down from Lafayette to Barrow streets to accommodate festival set-up.

Ed White, of White Oak Productions, produces Best of the Bayou for the second consecutive year.

Seven local bands are scheduled to perform, offering between them a mixture of cover and original songs. The Auto Pilots, Autumn High and Baby Bee provide the majority of local lyricism. The Upstarts, based in New Orleans and featuring Houma native Mark Levron, are also on the local schedule with original tunes.

The remaining 13 sets offer an eclectic mix of genre, with one primary thread binding them together, according to Foster: energy. “I think it offers something for everyone, if you like music at all,” the festival chairman said. “It’s happy music.”

The Houma-based rock duo Baby Bee is scheduled to close the festival with a 90- minute set beginning at 5:30 p.m. from Gulf Groove. Brothers Joe and David Stark inked a record deal with Universal Republic last year, and are filling a slot Foster hopes to turn into an annual local spotlight to conclude the event.

“You talk about high energy – they’re not for the weak of heart,” Foster said.

Best of the Bayou was seeded for two years with BP tourism recovery grant funding. Because incessant rain curtailed turnout in year one, Foster has said strong attendance this year is important in ensuring the free event can become self-sustaining and ongoing, though alternate funding opportunities are being sought.

“We just ask people to leave their ice chests at home,” Foster said. “That’s pretty much how we’re going to sustain the festival, through our beverage sales.

“May God bless us with sunshine, and it will kill.”

Kids Corner

Best of the Bayou isn’t only for adults.

A special section carved from the festival grounds is catered to the children, offering free and low-price activities a couple blocks away from the Boudin Bayou stage.

The Court Appointed Special Advocate Association of Terrebonne is hosting the activities, offering Hula hoop-ing, beanbag tosses, carnival-styled games and a dress-up photo booth, among others.

Four 20-feet-by-20-feet tents are set up in the Whitney Bank parking lot adjacent to Roussell Street. Between 15 and 20 activities are planned, in all, said CASA Executive Director Laci Melancon.

“We’re basically going to use a lot of the activities we have available to us through our (‘A World of Fun’) Springfest,” Melancon said. The organization will also tap into its stable of volunteers to manage the activity booths.

Because Chevron is sponsoring the activities, Kids’ Corner proceeds will go to CASA of Terrebonne. The organization’s volunteers represent the interests of children involved in court proceedings, whether that is filing briefs or speaking to the judge, and often deal with children who were neglected or abused.

‘Great Gator Race’

Excitement should bubble when plastic alligators infest Bayou Terrebonne as part of a live lottery race on Best of the Bayou’s second day.

The premise is similar to the Thibodeauxville Fall Fest’s renowned rubber duck race atop Bayou Lafourche.

Two-foot-long, plastic alligators are released at 2 p.m., Sunday, across from the courthouse. Each is stenciled with a number that corresponds with a purchased ticket. The replica reptiles float to Roussell Street, with the first 20 to pass the finish line guaranteeing prizes for the people holding matching tickets. A second heat among the top 20 is waged to determine which prize goes to whom.

Fire-truck hoses may be used to provide a stronger current.

Tickets, sold before and during the festival, are $5 each. Project Learn La-Terre, with an inventory of 5,000 plastic gators, is coordinating the lottery. Most of the racers are colored a traditional green, but in homage to the folk artist Dot-tee Ratliff, the inclusion of pink gators is planned.

“We have great prizes,” Project Learn Executive Director Natalie Bergeron said.

Twenty prizes, with combined value exceeding $10,000, are awarded, including a five-day Caribbean cruise for two to the first-place winner, a half-day charter-fishing trip, gun cabinet, pirogue, Yeti ice chest, sports tickets and gift certificates to various restaurants.

Proceeds go to the Best of the Bayou Foundation, which will in turn make a donation to Project Learn for use of the alligators, Bergeron said.

The official Best of the Bayou Festival poster, an untitled painting by Creative U owner Karen McGowan, is pictured. McGowan will sign copies, for sale at the festival.