Friends of Bayou St. John wants to show you what’s possible for the future of the bayou. A future that takes into consideration the rich history and cultural significance of such a historic waterway, while also providing the essentials for a modern, urban, public space.
Every year on the third weekend of May, Friends of Bayou St. John celebrates Louisiana’s music, art, food, and culture through its Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo Festival, which takes place along the historic and beautiful urban waterway of Bayou St. John. The Bayou Boogaloo was started in 2006 as a way to reinvigorate the people of post-Katrina New Orleans and to provide inspiration for rebuilding within Mid-City. Friends of Bayou St John established the festival with a mission to restore the social fabric of Mid-City and Faubourg St. John; to connect neighbors, neighborhoods, and businesses; and to provide hope for the future by creating an opportunity for all residents to celebrate the heritage, culture, and diversity of New Orleans.
It was a one-day, one-stage event that attracted nearly 5,000 people. But thanks to the festival’s mission and diverse community-based approach, this flagship program has been able to experience tremendous growth over the last thirteen years and has become the backbone for Friends of Bayou St John to expand its programming. The Boogaloo is now a four-stage, three-day festival that attracts roughly 35,000 people annually. And Mid-City is now one of the most thriving neighborhoods in town!
The festival explores New Orleans’s musical roots in blues, jazz, zydeco, Cajun, funk, hip hop, and rock. Families are made welcome with a kids’ stage for children’s entertainment and activities for all ages. The Boogaloo Art Market offers original works of art in a variety of genres from 60 of Louisiana’s most celebrated artisans. The festival also boasts 30 Louisiana food vendors, serving a plethora of original recipes and traditional New Orleans cuisine. The importance of the Bayou Boogaloo to New Orleans is apparent in the support the festival receives from neighborhood and citywide organizations.
Bayou Boogaloo serves as Friends of Bayou St. John’s crucial outreach tool; it enables us to collaborate with other organizations, build awareness, and motivate citizens to become actively engaged in matters that affect their community such as advocating for better recreational opportunities from our government agencies.
The Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo has enabled Friends of Bayou St. John to reinvest in the community in many ways, including by becoming a valued community partner to non-profit organizations throughout New Orleans that rely on the annual festival to generate exposure and raise funds for their services.
In 2012, after six years of operation, The Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo was finally sustainable enough to start fulfilling one of its original goals: to give back to the community through investments in arts, culture, and recreation. Knowing that community trees are proven to encourage social gatherings, promote recreation, reduce crime, and improve environmental quality, Friends of Bayou St. John set its eyes on replacing Bayou St. John’s four majestic oak trees that were lost during Hurricanes Katrina and Isaac. The Restore the Bayou Canopy Campaign’s initial goal was simply to replace these four trees. But thanks to overwhelming community support, FOBSJ has been able to plant five 200-gallon, one 300-gallon, and two towering 670-gallon Southern Live Oaks along Bayou St. John. Friends of Bayou St. John also facilitated transforming one of the dead oak trees into a public art sculpture thanks to a collaboration between renowned chainsaw artist Marlin Miller and Mardi Gras float craftsman Jonathan Bertuccelli. Aside from the Bayou St. John Parkway, FOBSJ also teamed up with Parkway Partners in 2016 to help the Broadmoor neighborhood become home to twelve new 15-gallon trees (including crape myrtles, sweet bay magnolias, and savannah hollies). Broadmoor is at the bottom of New Orleans’ proverbial bowl and suffered tremendous damage during Hurricane Katrina, so these new trees will help mitigate storm water runoff problems in a myriad of ways. Friends of Bayou St. John continues to invest money regularly in tree care and maintenance including disease and insect control, mulching and improving soil structure for drainage. FOBSJ plans on continuing its Restore the Bayou Canopy Campaign, beautifying the city for generations to come.
In Fall 2014, Parkview Neighborhood Association surveyed residents’ preferences for neighborhood improvement projects. 63% of respondents suggested funds be invested in general maintenance such as “picking up trash in and around the water,” and 42% of respondents suggested other cleanup efforts such as increasing the number of trashcans. Based on the survey results, Parkview Neighborhood Association’s final recommendations included “general upgrades and maintenance to the bayou, including but not limited to more trash cans [and] a more regular trash pickup.” In 2015, Friends of Bayou St. John’s Board of Directors voted to respond to this community need by investing in a new anti-litter campaign. FOBSJ kicked off the program in the Fall of 2015 by sponsoring Bigbelly solar-powered recycling units on the Lafitte Greenway, a project that was led by Friends of Lafitte Greenway with support from Keep Louisiana Beautiful. In December 2015, FOBSJ sent a proposal to the New Orleans Department of Sanitation requesting permission to donate wrought-iron trashcans for the bayou and asking the City to service the receptacles. We are continuing to put pressure on the City to respond with the cooperative endeavor agreement necessary to move this project forward. In the meantime, we are extremely grateful for a partnership with Kayak-ity-yat, NOLA Trash Mob, and Friends of Lafitte Greenway that facilitates morning banks and bayou cleanups during the annual Bayou Boogaloo.
In 2016, ten years after the first Bayou Boogaloo, Friends of Bayou St. John expanded its festival programming onto Louisiana’s Northshore. The First Annual Festival Bonfouca was Slidell’s first three-day community arts and music festival and took place March 18-20, 2016 on the gorgeous banks of Bayou Bonfouca in Heritage Park.