Many folks outside have heard of, and maybe even experienced festivals such as the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival or the world-famous New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. But did you know that spring in Louisiana is also full of cutting-edge films, convicts chasing cows and poetry readings?
From the top of the boot down to the toe, we’ve compiled some of our favorite spring festivals in this two-part series.
Louisiana International Film Festival
LIFF Fest is an incredible testament to film and digital storytellers from Louisiana and around the world. The festival typically draws nearly 10,000 filmmakers, artists, musicians and attendees. They travel to Baton Rouge for up-close conversations with filmmakers, virtual reality installations, panels with industry experts and more.
If you’ve ever been to a traditional rodeo, this is nothing like that. Tucked into the Tunica Hills just north of Baton Rouge, you’ll find The Louisiana State Penitentiary, commonly known as Angola State Prison. The rodeo by the same name got started back in 1965 when a few inmates and guards put up an arena to hold a few events for their own entertainment. But before long, folks from surrounding areas heard about the rodeo and the audience quickly grew from there. Just a few years later, the prison realized what a draw they had — and the crazy list of events has been expanding ever since. These days, inmates compete in events like Wild Cow Milking, Convict Poker and more. Beautiful leatherwork, wood carvings, paintings and furniture crafted by inmates is for sale during the rodeo and brings collectors from near and far. Read more about Angola rodeos.
For more than 20 years, the Natchitoches Jazz / R&B Festival has been rocking the banks of Cane River. People travel from all over the south to see favorite musicians live on stage and get introduced to emerging artists they might not have seen anywhere else. From country and rock n’ roll to zydeco, blues and everything in between, music lovers of all stripes agree: this festival is a great time with great people here in Natchitoches.
This famous literary festival has been supporting and shining a spotlight on writers, actors, musicians and other artists for decades. The organization is credited with providing professional writing instruction for hundreds of students in New Orleans. Literary fans of all kinds flock to the fest, hosted in the city Tennessee Williams dubbed his spiritual home. Visitors are rewarded with thousands of poems, short stories and plays.
Bonus! We recommend lovers of the written word also peruse the newer, but also internationally recognized sister event: The Saints and Sinners Literary Festival. It’s the place to be for LGBT publishers, writers and fans. The weekend includes panel discussions and master classes. Broaden your horizons while you’re in town--it’s what all good New Orleanian writers would do. Learn more about Louisiana's famous authors.
Every spring in St. Landry Parish, just north of Lafayette, local cooks and seasoned chefs bring their best smothered dish to the Mayor’s Cook-off. While traditionally filled with crawfish, festival participants are known to take liberties with their recipes. We’ve seen étouffée made solely with veggies, many with a variety of seafood, and even some with surprises! Locals and tourists alike show up with healthy appetites to taste them all and feed their souls. Once you’ve had your fill, take a tour at the car show, go shopping, and dance to the live music on stages set up for the weekend of fun.
Join in on the Krotz Springs Heritage Festival to see, hear and taste the unique culture created on the banks of the Atchafalaya River. Foodies will love the wild game cook-off, music fans will be entertained by the Cajun, swamp pop and zydeco tunes, and kids of all ages will enjoy traditional festival activities. The history of Krotz Springs is inseparable from the river that sustains it. The first settlers saw the small growing village as a paradise: fresh water readily available and teeming with fish and wild game everywhere. Just as the river gave, it took away…the city has survived at least three major floods in its history, shifting the landscape and economy as the waters receded. The crawfish are plentiful and the spirits of those who still live here are strong. Come and see for yourself!
Spring in Louisiana has something for book lovers, foodies, history buffs, music fans and more! There are no shortage of festivals kicking off just after Mardi Gras. Want more ideas? Check out Even More Unique Spring Festivals in Louisiana.