Thursday, July 19, 2018

Happy Feet Witnessed at the Long Beach Bayou Festival


The 2007 installment of the Long Beach Bayou Festival was a tremendous success. The event was held at the Rainbow Lagoon-one of the original locations where the festival began long time ago. The dates were June 22-24.

I’m wondering if the producers of the movie HAPPY FEET got the idea for a movie from attending a Cajun and zydeco dance, festival or concert. People who like Cajun and zydeco music can not stop dancing while the music is playing.
I arrived at the new location in time to catch the last song performed by Lee Benoit & The Bayou Stompers. The expanded canopied dance floor was filled to capacity. After their crowd pleasing set, Lee and Valerie Benoit presented a workshop on the Club N’ Orleans Stage on how to play the Cajun triangle for a waltz or Cajun two step.

I spent the entire weekend at the Club N’ Orleans Stage soaking in the various cultural, educational workshops presented by the artists on the smaller intimate stage. All of the workshops were informative and offered insight into the culture of Louisiana. The workshops expanded festival goers appreciation and understanding or help piqued peoples interest in wanting to learn more about Louisiana by attending festivals like this one, learning to cook foods of Louisiana, learning how to dance to the music and above all else-to get people interested in planning a trip to the great state of Louisiana. All of the artist performed on the main stage and also presented a workshop on the smaller stage.

Terry & members of his band talked about how they learned to play zydeco. Some people are self taught musicians while others were born into an extended family of musicians. The artist answered a lot of questions and played some music to the delight of everyone present.

The next workshop was entitled The Definition of Zydeco For the Next Generation. Festival organizers picked the perfect candidate to lead this workshop in a gifted young child prodigy-9 year old Guyland LeDay. Check out his impressive credentials: He started playing at the age of three, he is a self taught musicians, he currently has two CD’s out entitled Louisiana Chicken Shack and Be My Girlfriend, he recently won the Oscar Mayer Sing The Jingle, Be a Star contest for his version of the “Oscar Mayer Wiener Jingle”, and is the recipient of a special Gordon Parks Award for the Arts presented at a black-tie gala on June 18, 2007. The Gordon Parks Foundation Inaugural Fundraiser was held at Gotham Hall in Manhattan to honor people who have enriched our lives through their contributions to the arts. Guyland LeDay was in good company for this inaugural event joining HBO’s Sheila Nevins, Gloria Vanderbilt and Harvard’s Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Guyland was also featured on a HBO special called The Music in Me: Children’s Recitals from classical to Latin, Jazz to Zydeco. The show focused on six inspiring musical prodigies, each from a different musical and cultural tradition. Guyland finished his workshop and afterwards performed a phenomenal set of original tunes on the main Bayou Stage with the Same Ol’ 2 Step Band. His performance brought everyone to their feet and closer to the stage to see the future of zydeco. It is hard to believe that no one was dancing throughout his set.

Lil Brian of the Zydeco Travelers has an appropriate name for the workshop-Taking Zydeco On The Road (A Road Warrior). He shared an experience about the frustration of playing a gig that called for him and his band to play ten-10 minute sets as opposed to playing a regular hour long set.

Kevin Naquin shared the importance of keeping the music alive for the workshop-Passing the Music From Generation to Generation.

Another workshop featured Geno Delafose-Post Katrina (The Joie de Vivre Spirit). He stated “Things aren’t like they used to be, life in Louisiana is getting better”. Geno extended an invitation to the crowd to join him in Eunice, Louisiana for his annual Fan Appreciation Day.

The LALA Secondline Dancers of Los Angeles got into the festivities by talking about the history of the Secondline Dancing in New Orleans. Members of the group led the audience in a traditional Secondline dance and picked up the tempo by demonstrating several new dances-The Cupid Shuffle and The Electric Slide to the upbeat tune of “Call The Police”.

Zac Harmon Blues Workshop focused on the Hill country and Delta Blues styles of music. He demonstrated both styles on the songs “I’m Mad” and “Hattie Mae”. The Zac Harmon Blues Band went on to perform an entertaining set of blues featuring the following: “Sugar Man”, “King Bee”, “and “Baby, What You Want Me To Do”.

The Bayou festival offered more inter-active activities for the entire family. Karen Redding, A.J. Gibbs, Greg Benusa, Zydeco Ted, Bill Corwin, Peter Oliver, and Sandy Baker taught people various Cajun and Zydeco dances-shuffle, the sweetheart, Cajun waltz, Cajun jig, zydeco 2-step. The Kid’s Bayou Tent featured assorted Arts and Crafts. They were able to make a costume and mask for the Children’s Mardi Gras parade. Thanks to Don Knabe, LA County Supervisor, 4th District sponsored the arts and crafts supplies used in the kid’s tent.

There were more jazz and blues featured this year which helped attract more people to this year’s festival. The Oscar Jordan Band, Gregg Wright Blues Band, Ozzie Blues Show, Al Williams Jazz Society, Bobby Griffin, Café R&B, Ernie Andrews, Candye Kane and C.J.Chenier & The Red Hot Louisiana Band performed at the Long Beach Bayou Festival.

The Long Beach Bayou Festival is an annual fundraiser for Comprehensive Child Development a non-profit organization, now in its 22nd year providing childcare and education for children whose parents work or in job training. The Long Beach Bayou Festival is the longest running Cajun and Zydeco Festival in California. The Long Beach Bayou Festival is one of Sea Festival’s Summer Events. If you want to have a Louisiana experience-mark your calendar for August 4th & 5th for the 14th Annual Crawfish Festival at the Rainbow Lagoon in Long Beach.

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Ricky Ricardo is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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