Despite damage, blues festival to stay in Cassidy

Published 6:46 am Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Despite significant damage to the event venue, State Rep. Malinda White, the Bogalusa Blues and Heritage Festival chair, said the show will go on.

On March 11, floodwaters tore through Cassidy Park, demolishing part of the road and playground equipment and leaving massive holes in places. In addition, several structures were damaged, including the museums and power has been off since the storm.

However, White said the location is an important part of the festival, now in its fifth year. Asked whether she’d even once considered moving the location, White said, “never.”

“There’s lots of festivals everywhere, but what makes … ours unique is because people enjoy the beauty and the serenity of that park,” she said. “If you move that to a concrete parking lot, it’s just not going to be the same.”

In addition, White said the parking access, coupled with the stages and the wide, open spaces make Cassidy Park the best choice.

“For Bogalusa, there’s not anywhere that could hold the people that will come,” she said. “It would be a logistical nightmare. But it’s also a beautiful area.”
Public works director James Hall said before anyone will be allowed into the park, the holes will need to be filled in.

Some work is being done now, but major fill repairs are awaiting decisions from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which could fund some repairs.

“If they fund it, we have to repair it the way they say, but if they don’t fund it we can just go in there and do it how we want to,” said Hall.

Hall was clear, however: The park will not be open to anyone until the holes are filed.

“Were hoping to have (the festival) in the park, but the stipulation is, all the holes have to be filled,” Hall said. “There can’t be anything taped off; all the holes have to be filled because of the dangers.”

White said she believes the park will be open in time for the festival, which is still scheduled for late September. To that end, organizers are continuing to put together the blues event, and this week the artist lineup was announced.

On Sept. 23, the festival will feature Tab Benoit, Voo Davis and Samantha Fish. The next day, Saturday, will feature Ed Wills, Blues 4 Sale, Leslie Blackshear Smith Band, Cedric Burnside and Marc Broussard.

White said the festival lineup will offer a variety of music, besides blues.

“Our fifth year promises an amazing lineup with a great mix of blues from around the world,” said White. “Since the festival’s inception, it has been our mission to offer a variety of blues to appeal to all blues music lovers. And because we know this region has additional great music to offer, we’ll present jazz, zydeco, Americana, and country music on our Heritage Stage.”

White said the storm may have impacted the park, but she said it’s had no bearing on the background planning.

“No, not at all,” she said. “This is our fifth year, and everything pretty much goes like clockwork, everyone knows what they need to do,” she said.

White is now a state representative and spends most of her week in Baton Rouge, but even that hasn’t impeded her ability to organize the event.

“We have a group of seasoned volunteers, and everyone knows what needs to go together,” she said.