Long Beach Bayou and Mardi Gras Festivals

by Laurie Rappeport

The annual Long Beach Bayou and Blues Festival and the Long Beach Mardi Gras Festival bring a little bit of the spirit of New Orleans to the streets of Long Beach each year. Festival guests can hear some of America's best known Cajun, zydeco and blues music artists at the Bayou and Blues Festival and enjoy the parade, street theater and art of the Mardi Gras Festival.

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Bayou and Blues Festival Music

The city has hosted the Long Beach Bayou and Blues Festival since 1986, bringing jazz, blues and other Louisiana-style music genres to Rainbow Lagoon Park on a weekend in late June. Two stages, the Bayou Stage and the Club N'Orleans stage, run simultaneous performances. Rainbow Promotions LLC coordinates the festival, which also offers small-group talks with the musicians, who discuss their cultural influences as well as share information about their instrument of choice. They are also available to answer questions.

Bayou and Blues Festival Events

In addition to the musical performances, the festival includes a parade led by the New Orleans Traditional Jazz Band. People attending the festival can enjoy Cajun and Creole cuisine, including crawfish etouffee, gumbo, red beans and rice and hush puppies. Vendors sell arts and crafts. There are opportunities for dancing as well as dance workshops conducted for all ages. The Kids Fun Stage offers free arts and crafts, shows and contests.

Long Beach Mardi Gras Festival Events

Mardi Gras is celebrated at Rainbow Harbor each year on the Saturday before Fat Tuesday with an all-day festival. There are family friendly activities, including mask and bead making stations, a shrimp eating contest and the "Bubba Gump Pre-Parade Party," which features dance performances and a DJ. A collection of local artists' work is displayed at the Artist Village. Artwork exhibited in the village includes paintings, metalwork, mosaics, ceramics, videography and photography.

Long Beach Mardi Gras Parade

The highlight of the festival for many people is the Long Beach Mardi Gras Parade, which begins at 3:00 p.m. starting from the Aquarium of the Pacific and progresses around the boardwalk of Rainbow Harbor. The parade is led by the Mardi Gras King and Queen and their Royal Court and features belly dancers, roller girls, costumed characters, samba dancers, bands and floats.

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