The Bogalusa Blues and Heritage Festival was born in 2012 after Mayor Charles Mizell, who was working to reclaim and enhance Cassidy Park as part of an overall transformation of the economically struggling city, added the component of culture to the purview of the city’s Parks and Recreation Committee.
The park had already hosted several small music events, and the time was right for growth. Acting on a realization of the genre’s deep local roots, Committee Member Malinda White assembled a team to create a premiere celebration of the Blues in Bogalusa, and Mizell quickly upgraded the main stage and vowed to help ensure success.
Nine months later, lured by a lineup topped by Tab Benoit who had just won multiple Blues Foundation awards, nearly 2,000 people from across the region and beyond disregarded weather forecasts of torrential rain to attend. They got soaked but stayed, played and had such a good time that the fest was named Louisiana’s Best New Event of the year and a Top 10 Must Visit festival.
In 2013 BBHF II attracted nearly 5,000 Blues travelers, and performer Ana Popovich echoed the general praise for the festival’s organization, intimacy, setting and family-friendly spirit. She said she wished she’d brought her own family.
This year the crowd neared 8,000, and the extraordinary lineup, setting and spirit were again the talk of the masses.
Quality is key. The BBHF offers performances in a range of Blues styles, and has a second stage to spotlight the broader “gumbo” of regional music.
And the attraction is more than just melodic. The BBHF provides educational opportunities for children and adults via harmonica workshops, a Heritage Trail and free admission to on-site museums, plus canoe rides, a splash pad and other fun. Its vendors offer classic southern cuisine and only hand-crafted art and crafts.
Past attendees are continuing to build the buzz, and this year’s addition of in-park RV and tent camping has people already claiming spaces for Sept. 25 – 26, 2015.