When the summer heat breaks, Louisiana’s zesty fall festivals make the state a top destination for music, food, sports, heritage — and this year, a real cool anniversary and "eggs-tra" special food celebration. Here’s a rundown of the best festivals to revel in rich culture and special flavors across the Bayou State.
1. Bogalusa Blues and Heritage Festival, September 27 and 28
On the last weekend of September, the small town of Bogalusa plays host to the fifth annual Bogalusa Blues and Heritage Festival, where the 2019 lineup promises once again to celebrate the region’s musical legends and legacy.
The town is about an hour’s drive north of New Orleans (via I-10 to LA-41 and LA -21), or just a bit longer heading east from Baton Rouge (I-12 to LA-21), welcoming RV and tent campers to Cassidy Park. For $25 weekend tickets, or $15 for either Friday or Saturday, you can sample local fare, browse handmade arts and crafts, learn the harmonica, and catch the blowout blues lineup at two stages.
2. 50th Anniversary of the Filming of Easy Rider Festival, Morganza, September 28
Ride easy on your visit to celebrate the filming of the groundbreaking 1969 film, Easy Rider. The iconic movie brought Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper (who starred, co-wrote, and directed) to the town of Morganza to shoot some of its famous scenes. The one-day festival revs up on Saturday, September 28th from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Old Morganza High School.
Festivalgoers can join a meet-and-greet with some of the film’s local actors, browse souvenirs and the event’s car and bike show, snap selfies at Melancon's Café where one of the pivotal scenes took place, and partake in a guided ride to the spot where Captain America met his tragic fate. Located in the crook of Louisiana’s “L” shape, Morganza is about 120 miles northwest of New Orleans mostly along I-10, on a bend in the Mississippi River.
If you’re craving even more Louisiana movie madness, there’s also a festival celebrating the 30th anniversary of the film Steel Magnolias. Stop into the town of Natchitoches, where the film was shot, from November 7 to 10 for screenings, panel discussions, location tours, a Dolly Parton lookalike contest, and more.
3. Red River Revel Arts Festival, Shreveport, September 28 - October 6
Since 1976, Red River Revel has marked the start of fall with a week’s worth of live entertainment, food, and culture. Held in downtown Shreveport, the festival takes over the town with a stellar lineup of local and global musicians — plus the works of local fine artists and artisans, kids’ fun, and festival foods to make Cajun-loving diners swoon. Direct flights into Shreveport Regional Airport are easy with several major airlines. (The festival is free except for “peak” evening and weekend times with $5 admission.)
4. Prize Festival, Shreveport, October 2-6
For five days in early October, Shreveport and Bossier City (just across the Red River) serve up northern Louisiana’s competitive spirit. The street festival puts on artistic exhibitions and competitions of short films and regional bands, leaving the audience to vote on their favorites in each category. And don’t miss a taste of what local chefs are dishing up in their cookoffs and demonstrations.
5. Treme Fest, New Orleans, October 5
This African-American neighborhood in the Cresent City – the inspiration for the eponymous HBO series – hosts a festival each October to celebrate and honor its rich contributions to the fabric of New Orleans and the world. Musicians Kermit Ruffins and Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews hail from Treme, and it’s home to Congo Square, the historic spot where slaves congregated to dance and play the music that would lay the foundations of jazz. This is where you'll also find the oldest African-American catholic church in United States. The festivities benefit neighborhood restoration and building projects, and include music, historic tours, and – of course – an array of local food. Treme Fest is free to attend.
6. Angola Prison Rodeo, October 6, 13, 20, and 27
The oldest prison rodeo in the country, this unique event features prison inmates riding bulls, racing horses, and participating in other tests of strength and skill. Money raised at the event, which includes an extensive fair showcasing prisoner arts and crafts, benefits prisoner programs. The Louisiana State Penitentiary, where the rodeo is staged, is about two-and-a-half hours from New Orleans and about one hour from Baton Rouge. Tickets are available for $20 online and at the gate.
7. 44th Annual Zwolle Tamale Fiesta, October 10-12
You don’t have to love tamales to appreciate the best of Zwolle. The small town in central-western Louisiana has been hosting this colorful fiesta since 1975. The event celebrates local Native American heritage and the eventual cultural mix of Spanish, French, and English settlers. The three-day fiesta brings a slew of to-dos, including live music daily, tamale-eating contests, a mud-bog truck derby, a treasure hunt, arm wrestling showdown, plus a parade and fiesta royalty pageant — all for $5 per-day tickets (more to truck into the mud bog). Zwolle is on the Toledo Bend Reservoir on the Louisiana-Texas border, where you can enjoy the Toledo Bend Forest Scenic Byway (LA-191) driving either from Shreveport or Lake Charles.
8. Wooden Boat Festival, Madisonville, October 12 and 13
Ahoy, boat lovers! Hitch up your ship at Louisiana’s exhibition of historic wooden vessels in Madisonville, right across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. For the price of entry ($10 adults, $5 seniors, free for kids and active military), you can catch music, food, and several quirky contests, including the Anchors Away Cardboard Boat Regatta and the two-day Quick ‘n’ Dirty Boat Building Contest, which tests the entries on the Tchefuncte River.
9. Rouge et Blanc, Lake Charles, October 12
Every October, Lake Charles becomes an oenophile’s delight at this annual one-night wine and culinary event. Now in its 14th year, Rouge et Blanc showcases more than 200 international wines for tasting and sales, each paired with food from the city’s top restaurants. Plan ahead to road trip along the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road, with easy access from Lake Charles Regional Airport.
10. Boudin Wars 2019, Sulphur, October 26
Just west of Lake Charles at the Henning Cultural Center, get your fill of one of the state’s top local delicacies. Boudin is a Cajun sausage filled with meat, rice, onions, and spices, with recipes and variations unique to each chef and restaurant. At the 14th annual Boudin Wars, local chefs will compete and let visitors choose Southwest Louisiana’s best boudin, including traditional and more “exotic” styles (crawfish boudin, anyone?). Limited $10 tickets to the Saturday, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. event are for sale at www.brimstonemuseum.org, or by phone at (337) 527-0357.
11. Giant Omelette Celebration, Abbeville, November 2 and 3
One of the state’s most unusual festivals features an egg-cracking contest, all poured into a 12-foot skillet for the 5,000-egg Giant Omelette Celebration. The event gets cracking on the first weekend of November in Abbeville, just 20 miles south of Lafayette along the “Cajun Corridor.” Catch plenty of family-oriented action here, including a charity walk, arts and craft show, antique-car exhibition, and live Cajun music. (And in case you’re wondering, the omelette is tied to an ancient tale about Napoleon feeding his army, and a sisterhood of French-heritage cities that celebrate the eggs-traordinary ingredient.)