Blues Fest makes state news again

Published 6:19 am Sunday, March 17, 2013

For the second time in less than a month, the Bogalusa Blues and Heritage Festival made headlines across the state and Internet when, with only one year under its belt, the fledgling festival was named one of “10 Must-Visit Louisiana Festivals” by the Louisiana Office of Tourism.

Compounding the accomplishment was the fact that the top 10 were decided by a poll of the people. The Office of Tourism noted that there are nearly 500 festivals in the state every year and asked everybody to name their favorite.

The release announcing the winners described the process.

“When you host a few hundred festivals each year, it’s no easy task to whittle that list down to 10 must-visit Louisiana festivals,” it said. “It’s like picking your favorite child. For a little help, we asked our Facebook friends. We polled the office. We questioned the waitress delivering our tray of boiled crawfish. And finally, in some cases, we just had to flip a coin.”

Fans of the Bogalusa Blues and Heritage Festival, now gearing up for its second year, made their feelings known, and the fan base proved significant. The BBHF beat out hundreds of other events to claim a spot among the top 10.

Now that declaration by the state Office of Tourism is sure to garner additional attention and attendance.

BBHF Chair Malinda White invites everyone to “catch the spirit and promote” the festival, which, in turn energizes the transformation of Bogalusa.

“Be a part of making positive changes because change is going to come,” she urged. “Yes it is!”

Steering Committee member Alicia Hortman-Hartfield joined in the excitement. She called the latest recognition “amazing” and said the festival’s contributions to the community have only just begun.

“We’re committed to making a new name for our city and an economic impact,” Hortman-Hartfield exclaimed.

Last month, the Bogalusa Blues and Heritage Festival was named 2012 New Event of the Year by the Louisiana Association of Fairs and Festivals, in a competition that is open to more than just first-year events.

That honor was mentioned by the state in its announcement of the most recent accomplishment.

“Though a new event, the inaugural Bogalusa Blues and Heritage Festival generated a lot of buzz and was named New Event of the Year by the Louisiana Association of Fairs and Festivals,” it said. “The September festival pays tribute to Bogalusa’s amazingly rich music history.”

And all of the widespread recognition comes after an inaugural event last year that took place on a day when the city got more than five inches of rain in a daylong downpour.

About 2,000 people attended despite the weather, had a great time, spread the word and vowed to return this year. More than 50 percent of the visitors were reportedly from out of town, an extra boon to the local economy.

As the state honors pile up, festival organizers are preparing to deliver an even better event this year. Contracts are now being signed, and the BBHF II lineup will be announced within days.

The group’s new logo is also about to be revealed.

For now, the committee members are heeding the general state Office of Tourism advice to “Pick your passion” by nurturing the regional festival that celebrates the cultural riches of the area and continues to put a spotlight on the best of Bogalusa.

Other fests on the 10 Must-Visit Louisiana Festivals list are, “in no particular order:” the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans, the Strawberry Festival in Ponchatoula, the Christmas Festival of Lights in Natchitoches, the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, Festival International de Louisiane in Lafayette, the Red River Revel in Shreveport, the International Rice Festival in Crowley, the French Food Festival in Larose and the Franklin Parish Catfish Festival in Winnsboro.

To learn more about these and other Louisiana festivals, join the conversation on Facebook or visit www.louisianatravel. com.