A melting pot of French, African, American and French-Canadian cultures, southeastern Louisiana represents the most vibrant form of cosmopolitanism in the United States. With a richly diverse population, all with their own traditional flavors, this ethnic mix has led to a plethora of festivals and fairs taking place here throughout the year, many of which celebrate the magic of multicultural policies.
If you are planning a trip to Louisiana and would like to attend one of the festivals or fairs during your stay, here are some you should look out for, especially those that take place in the iconic city of New Orleans. If you want to know the exact dates for 2021, be sure to keep checking the official event website.
Fur and Wildlife Festival
What began as a relatively low-key fur-skimming contest, the annual Louisiana Fur and Wildlife Festival has grown into a much larger event that includes a range of animal-centric entertainment. Parades, okra cook-offs, festivities, 5K and 1-mile runs, French-American music and a carnival with rides. The festival’s activities also include wacky contests such as duck and goose hunting, trapping, oyster shucking, skeet shooting and dog races.
Location Downtown Cameron Date January
There’s nothing more quintessentially American than a good old-fashioned rodeo, and each year Louisiana hosts a large number of these events, pitting cowboys and cowgirls’ skills against horses, bulls, steers and other cattle. One of the most popular is the Rumble Market Rodeo in Lafayette, where professional competitors from around the world challenge themselves against the finest livestock.
Location Blackham Coliseum, Lafayette Date January
Sicilian Independence Festival
Louisiana has a wide variety of cultures, so it’s no surprise that much of Louisiana’s annual calendar consists of events that celebrate the heritage of this or that ethnic group. One of the most popular festivals is the Sicilian Independence Festival, which honors the Sicilian Italian families who came here in the 1880s in search of settlement. The festival’s extensive program includes street dances, live performances, parades, arts and crafts booths, pasta cooking contests, Italian music and authentic Sicilian food.
Independence Date: March
St. Patrick’s Day in New Orleans
In New Orleans, St. Patrick’s Day is an excuse to hold weeks of celebrations that include parades, block parties and enough corned beef and cabbage to feed an army. The city loves St. Patrick’s Day for two reasons. First, New Orleans just loves to party. But just as important is the long legacy of the Irish people who came here in droves in the 17th century. Many eventually settled in the city’s Irish Channel district, but the celebration isn’t limited to that area; the revelry is spread throughout the city.
Location: New Orleans Date: March
New Orleans Sacred Music Festival
Imagine seeing Tibetan monks strutting their stuff to gospel music? The Festival of Sacred Music is where this incredible scene happens every year. Advertised as melodic, inspiring and uplifting, but also serious and deeply personal, this festival is certainly a more spiritual celebration than other rough-and-tumble musical celebrations in New Orleans, with prayer and chant playing an important role. There’s some great food, too.
Location: New Orleans Rehab Center Date: May
Saints and Sinners Literary Festival
This is a festival that combines culture and entertainment with a serious and important message. Founded in 2003, it brings together writers, editors, publishers, thinkers and other advocates from the LGBT community in an attempt to educate and inform about HIV and AIDS, and to discuss broader LGBT issues. Panel discussions and master classes focus on LGBT-themed literary topics, and speakers are encouraged to discuss their work and the impact they feel LGBT literature as a whole has on the way society treats their communities.
Location: Hotel Monteleone, New Orleans Date: January
NOLA FLAME WEEK
Louisiana’s history is inextricably tied to pirates, who are said to have hidden their ships and booty here as early as the 17th century. This rich history is chronicled each year at NOLA Flame Week, which includes an array of live music and performances, vendors and artists, all with a distinct flame theme. Visitors are encouraged to dress in traditional pirate costumes, including eye patches, pirate hats, wigs and swords. But it’s not all boring – proceeds from the event will go to a variety of local charities.
Location New Orleans French Quarter Dates March – April
Freret Street Festival
It may not have the world-renowned reputation of Madrigal, but the Freret Street Festival certainly has its own identity in terms of outdoor entertainment and light-hearted activities. Over 2,000 local vendors showcase arts, crafts and wearables, and live music takes place in three stages. Food also plays an important role, with some of New Orleans’ best chefs in the food court. Kids are well taken care of, too, with a dedicated kids’ area featuring an oversized block set, face painting, craft tables, hourly relay races and sidewalk art contests.
Location: Freret Street, New Orleans Date: July
Brooks Bridge Crawfish Festival
Food, fun and music. What’s not to love about the annual Brooks Bridge Crawfish Festival? This three-day festival, held in the small city of Brockbridge in Parc Hardy, dates back to 1960, when the city was named the Crawfish Capital of the World. The event is packed with live music from over 30 bands, dance competitions, and the indulgence of cooked crawfish, attracting visitors from all over the world.
LocationBrowbridge Hardy ParkDatesApril-May
Mud Bug Madness
This very popular festival has come a long way since it was first held in 1984. Thanks to these relatively low-key days, the festival has grown rapidly and is now widely regarded as one of Louisiana’s most anticipated cultural events. French-American celebrates all things French-American, and the length of the French-American Festival is now three full days of French-American-themed food, music, microbrews, contests and entertainment for all ages each Memorial Day weekend.
Downtown Shreveport Festival Plaza
Located on the banks of the historic St. John’s River, this festival combines culture, creativity and entertainment. There’s live music, art and food, and a variety of booths offering novelty items ranging from photographic prints, jewelry and woodwork to voodoo dolls, ceramic oyster stoneware and handmade hats. But without a doubt, the biggest draw here is the music. With four stages and a wide variety of performers, the festival has something for every kind of listening pleasure.
Location: St. John’s Bayou, New Orleans Date: January
Bird’s Foot Festival
This vibrant New Orleans music festival describes itself as “international quality with a local twist”. Named after the branch of the Mississippi Delta, this event takes place in jazz clubs and concert halls throughout the city, showcasing live chamber music from emerging and established artists. As you might expect, the festival has a relaxed intimacy that has helped it earn rave reviews from enthusiastic local followers and critics over the years.
New Orleans Dates: May – June
New Orleans Festival of Love
With contemporary politics and culture creating such a divide in society, an event like the New Orleans Festival of Love has never been more needed. Designed to challenge racism and prejudice and bring creative people together to fight for social justice for minorities, the Summer Film Festival is a platform for film, art and literature that promotes the cause of race relations through its message and content. The festival also takes on a fun and lighthearted aspect after a night of parties and comedy.
New Orleans Dates: Months
naughty at n’ awlins
One of the world’s largest lifestyle conferences for couples, more than 1,000 couples come to New Orleans each year for this epic and diverse conference. The event includes a huge sexual freedom march designed to raise awareness about polyamorous relationships, slutty lifestyles, and supposedly outdated laws banning sex toys. There will also be seminars and workshops on tandoori, BDSM, photography, massage and more.
Location Crowne Plaza Astor Hotel, New Orleans Date Month Day
Presented by Chevron, this festival honors the life, legacy and music of New Orleans native Louis Armstrong. What began in 2001 as a celebration of the musician’s 100th anniversary has grown into a three-day event that features entertainment, education and dining at some of New Orleans’ most famous restaurants. More than 100 artists representing New Orleans’ finest traditional and contemporary jazz musicians and brass bands participate in the festival while showcasing New Orleans’ most important local traditions, such as the Sunday Morning Jazz Mass at the historic St. Augustine Church, and the traditional Second Line Parade. A $5 daily admission helps support local musicians and fund events.