Rotary hears plans for bigger, better Bogalusa Blues Festival

Published 8:50 am Friday, July 18, 2014

In the same spot where she first introduced the inaugural Bogalusa Blues and Heritage Festival in 2012, on Tuesday Malinda White told the Rotary Club of Bogalusa about the much-expanded plans for September’s third incarnation of the event.

This year’s festival, which will take place Sept. 26-27 at Cassidy Park, will see the event’s first foray into Friday evening acts. It will also feature camping at the park for out-of-town festivalgoers.

“We don’t have a whole lot of hotel infrastructure,” White said while explaining the decision to offer camping this year.

She said the RV hookups have already sold out, but there a still a few spots left for those campers who do not need this amenity.

This year’s festival will also feature VIP tickets for $150, which will include admission to the VIP area, 10 beverage tickets, a Friday gourmet “patron” dinner, VIP parking and some festival goodies. She said these tickets are of limited quantity so the experience can remain special for those who purchase VIP tickets.

This year’s lineup includes blues performers of all types and who hail from all over the country.

“There’s a lot of different sounds to the blues,” said White. “When you bring the different varieties here, you bring in that market. We want to pull them from all over.”

She noted that Saturday headliners J.J. Grey and Mofro alone are likely to bring 5,000 to 10,000 visitors to the city.

Other performers include local favorite Big Daddy O, New Orleans-based Walter “Wolfman” Washington and repeat performer Paul Thorn on Friday. Saturday’s lineup features Big George Brock, Johnny Sansone with special guest Chief Monk Boudreaux, who will bring some of the Mardi Gras Indians flair to the festival, Mike Zito, Devon Allman, who is the son of Greg Allman, and Ruthie Foster, who White likened to crossover blues artist Bonnie Raitt.

Also Saturday, the Heritage Stage, reserved for musical acts of the non-blues variety, will feature Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers, Trent and Zac, the Mandeville High School Jazz Band, Keenan Knight and Pettybones.

“Every act is like a headliner,” said White.

But some of the biggest news surrounding this year’s festival does not come from a blues performer at all.

White said that while putting the festival together, she did extensive research into Bogalusa’s musical history.

“It’s amazing to me how musically inclined this city was at one time,” she said, noting she had been told Fourth Street was once lined with music clubs.

She said that her research led to discovering some amazing musical connections to the city. Two such discoveries were that Professor Longhair, who is forever immortalized by New Orleans’ most famous of music clubs, Tipitina’s, was born in Bogalusa. The second was that artist Richard Thomas, who created the iconic Fats Domino 20th anniversary Jazz Fest poster, the poster that set the tone for all other Jazz Fest posters since, also is a native Bogalusan.

With nothing but hope in her heart, White said she contacted Thomas about the possibility of one day putting together a poster for the fledgling Blues Festival. Much to her surprise and delight, he agreed to create this year’s poster, which will be created around Professor Longhair, who passed away in 1980.

The poster will be unveiled at a later date.

During that first speech to the Rotary Club, White promised, “We’re going to build something that’s valuable for the community.”

White’s words have proven prophetic as the economic impact of the festival as well as its effect on elevating the image of the region have both been shown in concrete terms.

Southeastern Louisiana University has tracked the positive economic impact the festival has had on the city. And as far as bringing some level of notoriety to the city of Bogalusa, White has seen that with her own eyes.

She said following last year’s festival, she traveled around the region to other music events as a way to come down from the natural high of seeing the Bogalusa Blues and Heritage Festival come together. Everywhere she went, White saw people wearing Bogalusa Blues and Heritage Festival T-shirts who had many positive things to say about the music, the venue and, most importantly, the people.

“That’s the magic,” she said.

For more information or to purchase tickets or festival sponsorships, visit