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Monday, May 20, 2019

Heads or Tales

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Mudbug Madness so much more than a big crawfish boil

During the weekend of May 24 through 26 (Memorial Day weekend), anywhere from 80,000 to 100,000 hungry crawfish lovers are expected to hone their peeling skills at Festival Plaza at the 36th Annual Mudbug Madness Festival.

“This festival is about music, it’s about food and it’s about fun,” said Terri Mathews with Gumbeaux Event Productions. “It’s also the beginning of summer, so everything just kind of fits. We like to call it a large backyard crawfish boil.”

Mathews, who is in her 29th year with the event and 25th year as chairman, said it is almost like a family reunion for the community, but it’s more than that.

“We have people who schedule their vacations around this festival every year – we have some who come from Pennsylvania,” she said. “We even have a group that comes from Alaska, periodically. And, of course, we pull a lot from East Texas and Oklahoma. All of those people have faces we recognize now, so it is like a big family reunion every year that kicks off the vacation season and ends the long school season.”

And even though folks in Louisiana eat crawfish all year long, the event marks the official end of the season.

During the three days, Mathews said, 80,000 pounds of the little critters will be seasoned and boiled by Shaver’s Crawfish & Catering of Shreveport, with the help of three other vendors.

“Everybody’s looking for that last hurrah of crawfish,” she said.

“For some, crawfish is an acquired taste, and for those who have never acquired it, there will be everything from meat pies, etouffee, seafood pasta, sausage on a stick, shrimp, catfish, boudin balls, ice cream, funnel cakes, jambalaya and more,” Mathews said.

Kathy Taylor and her husband, Phil, attended the festival every year when they lived in Minden. Now that they live in Ruston, they are still willing to make the drive for the food – and the music.

“It all appeals to us, but we go mainly for the food,” Kathy Taylor said. “And I eat.”

Typically, the Taylors attend for a day, tasting as much of the food as possible, browsing the art booths and enjoying the music.

“It is good, live, local music,” Taylor said. “We hang out for the whole day to listen. It’s an all-day affair. There’s something for everybody there.”

“We are known for our music because we mix it up,” Mathews pointed out. “We do Cajun and Zydeco, but we also do country, jazz and pop … you name it.”

Two stages host the line-ups, and this year the committee is really mixing it up.

“We normally have all Cajun and Zydeco on the main stage, but we are going to have Cajun and Zydeco on both of our performing stages and have country and pop on them, as well,” Mathews said. “That way, people don’t have to pick and choose.”

The Madness Stage is sponsored by Louisiana Seafood and NBC6. The Swamp Stage is sponsored by KTBS/KPXJ.

For a complete list of the stages, headliners and the schedules, please visit www.mudbugmadness.com or www.facebook.com/MudbugMadness.

What would a festival be without visual art? Even Mudbug Madness has vendors that include arts, crafts and jewelry to round it out, making it truly a family event.

“We have everything from handmade arts and crafts to paintings,” Mathews said.

One artist has been showing and selling her wares at Mudbug Madness and the Red River Revel for at least a dozen years.

Candice Alexander of Lake Charles said her 3-D mixed media graphic art is very popular in the Shreveport area. The festivals combined make up about 18 percent of the artist’s annual sales.

“People tell me they come to these festivals to buy my work,” Alexander said. “So, I have to come back.”

When Alexander first pitched her tent at Mudbug Madness, she was the only artist.

“They had things like cigars, belts and candles, but there weren’t any artists,” she said. “But then the artists got wind of what a good show it was for me, and now there are a lot more – I guarantee, I brought them in.”

“Now, I have all this competition,” she continued. “But it makes the festival better.”

The expansion means there’s truly something for everyone – children included.

“We have a fairly good area called ‘Kids on the Bayou’ with hands-on arts activities,” Mathews said.

This area has its own stage, sponsored by Capital One, with a rock wall, bungee, inflatable slides, train rides and obstacle courses.

New to Festival Plaza and Mudbug Madness this year is an outdoor green space sponsored by Great Raft Brewing.

“We will have some of their product in there,” Mathews said. “It will have some cornhole games in there and be a place where people can get together, and it will be covered, so they can get out of the sun.”

It will also be the site of a Mudbug Madness Cornhole Tournament at 11 a.m., Saturday, May 25. Sign up is $50 per team with $1,000-plus in prize money.

Mudbug Madness is presented by Downtown Shreveport Unlimited, a private non-profit organization. Title sponsor is CenterPoint Energy.

It is nationally recognized as one of the Southeast Tourism Society’s Top 20 Events and the American Bus Association’s Top 100 Events in the nation.

Taylor thinks one of the reasons Mudbug Madness is so successful is that use of local talent and businesses.

“This festival has staying power,” she said. “I want to see Shreveport/Bossier prosper, so even though I don’t live here, I support what goes on here.”

After all these years, producing Mudbug Madness has become like a well-oiled machine, Mathews said.

“I have a committee that the majority of them have been together for many, many years – some of them since origination,” she said. “They are all full-time employees elsewhere, but they take on a position with the festival that is similar to what they do in real life, so it complements it.”

But it isn’t without challenges. “You are fighting for sponsorship dollars, and there are many other quality community events that you compete against,” she said. “But we like to think with Mudbug we are a tradition. Parents went to it; grandparents went to it, and we hope generations yet to come will continue to let it be a part of their summer tradition.”

For a complete list of the stages, headliners and the schedules, please visit www.mudbugmadness.com or www.facebook.com/MudbugMadness.


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