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Wednesday, May 15, 2024



Mudbug Madness 40 Tickles All the Senses

Some say “crawfish.” Others, “crayfish.” Still others, “crawdad.” No matter how you say it, a lot of folks will be saying “mudbugs” this month as Downtown Shreveport Unlimited renews its 40-year tradition of saluting the curious crustacean at Mudbug Madness 2024, powered by Southwestern Electric Power Company.

All the pronunciation variations can be pretty confusing, and Googling any of the terms will provide lots of information but no definitive answer. For a little enlightening, if not debate-ending, discussion, you can check out a Grammarly post called “Crayfish vs. Crawfish.”

This culinary oddity is classified as a freshwater crustacean from the arthropod families Asteriidae, Cambaridae and Parastacidae. They look like tiny lobsters and, indeed, share some familial characteristics. They are omnivorous, meaning they will eat most anything alive or dead, and help keep waterways clear of debris while providing a tasty treat for fish, birds, snakes and other animals who like a good party.

Despite the sketchy taxonomy and pronunciation differences, Terri Matthews, executive director of Downtown Shreveport Unlimited (DSU), is enthused about the upcoming celebration in Festival Plaza. It’s scheduled for May 24-26 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day.

“We’re excited to be celebrating 40 years. That’s a big thing for us,” Matthews said, and they’re not just resting on their laurels from past events. “We’ve added some new things. On Sunday night, we’re adding a Latin Night, which we’re really excited about. For the last four hours on Sunday night in The Swamp, we will have three Latino bands.”

The entertainment will be sponsored by 318 Latino and KSLA and feature Los Cazadores de Cerro, Boyz of Kumbia and La Actualidad Nortena.

“We’re revamping our children’s area and trying to grow it,” Matthews added.

Kids on the Bayou will feature magicians, dancers, music, hands-on activities, the Shreveport Aquarium Mining Booth, a Nerf Maze, and art and food vendors.

She also said they are adding a green space sponsored by Brookshire’s Groceries in The Swamp area, where people can gather to play games and relax.

They are touting a lot of musical entertainment for this year, as well as some edibles other than mudbugs.

“A couple of years ago, we realized we’ve always been a crawfish festival, but obviously there’s so much more down there, like different types of food,” Matthews said. “[We’ve become] more of a music festival. So, we do concentrate a lot more now on our music. Obviously, the Cajun and Zydeco, when that crowd is there, and moving into country in the Swamp, it’s very eclectic. You could have anything from country to jazz to pop, blues, to Latin now. Our mainstage is high-energy with Cajun, country and Zydeco. We have the best of the best when it comes to Zydeco music.”

There will be two performance stages at the event featuring 30 bands. The CenterPoint Energy Stage, presented by NBC 6 and Townsquare Media, will feature performances by Grammy winner Terrance Simien, Cowboy Mouth, Dewayne Dopsie and country recording star Sammy Kershaw. Matthews said Kershaw was supposed to headline last year but had to cancel due to illness, and he’s making a recuperated comeback this year. Other entertainers scheduled for the stage include Diki Du & the Zydeco Krewe, Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble, Blue Crab Redemption, Jamie Bergeron & the Kickin’ Cajuns, and Craig Wayne Boyd.

The FOX 33 Swamp Stage, presented by Cumulus Radio, will feature Reed Foley, Johnny Earthquake and the Moondogs, Barksdale Bubble, Pocket Change and Chasin Benjamins, among others.

Special events during the festival will include the popular Celebrity Crawfish-Eating Contest at noon on opening day, May 24, featuring local on-air personalities and VIPs sponsored by BOM (Bank of Montgomery). The Men’s Crawfish Eating Contest, sponsored by Miller Lite, will be Saturday at 1 p.m. The Crawfish Calling Contest, sponsored by Barksdale Federal Credit Union, will be conducted at 1 p.m. on Saturday, as well. On Sunday, it’s the ladies’ turn to indulge in the Women’s Crawfish Eating Contest at 2:30 p.m., sponsored by Coors Light.

And if food, adult beverages and energetic music aren’t your cup of tea, Matthews said you’ll have over 30 artists’ tents to explore brimming with items like paintings, jewelry, clothing, hats and leather.

Returning this year on Friday will be $5 Lunch Specials and Happy Hour $3 beverage prices from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Also returning is the Shiner Bock Beer Garden featuring Shiner products, bar tables and yard games.

The popular Mudbug Madness Treasure Hunt begins Friday, May 10, with the first clue released in the 10 p.m. KTAL NBC 6 newscast each night and posted on social media the following morning. This year’s Treasure Hunt is sponsored by the Louisiana Association for the Blind. Social media posts will be made audible for the vision impaired.

The site also details available free parking and special parking for special-needs attendees, as well as discounts at local hotels and the like.

When asked what makes Mudbug Madness the recurring success it’s been for 40 years, Matthews said it’s the whole package.

“It’s all those things. And I think it’s the synergy. I always use the word ‘synergy’ when it comes to Mudbug. Because when you’re down there, it hits every human sense, whether it’s taste or smell. You know, we’ve got the contest going on where people can enter the crawfish-eating contest. Things like the calling contest. When you add that, the music is in the background and the beer is flowing, you smell the crawfish. It’s just a lot of sensory overload when it comes to Mudbug Madness.”

The appeal of the event isn’t lost on visitors to the area, either, she said. “Of course, it extends far beyond downtown. Everybody comes to Mudbug.

We have people from all over the United States. We’ve had people from out of the country, too. If they’re in town and they hear about it, they’ll come through. I remember one time we had a whole group from Ireland. They drank a lot of beer.”

Admission is $10, but children under 10 and anyone with a military ID will receive free admission. There is no admission charge for anyone until after 5 p.m. on Friday. A three-day pass is also available for $15.

“I think the thing that makes it so successful is that it’s just so fun. It’s just a fun time.

“We [DSU] produce Mudbug Madness, BREW, Paddy in the Plaza (the St. Patrick’s Day event), and we co-produce Rockets Over the Red Christmas Fireworks with the tourist bureau. Those are our major events.

“Downtown Shreveport Unlimited is all about providing quality of life in our little community downtown,” Matthews explained. “We’re happy to be able to showcase downtown Shreveport to all of these people that come. That’s why it’s so important to have a good presentation in your community. These things, us, the Revel, they all draw visitors from out of town.”

Those are the bullet points that would appear in any marketing material for DSU, but Matthews also summed up the appeal of the scavenging little omnivores, saying, “I think it’s a number of things. Number 1, it’s the kickoff of summer. Kids are getting out of school that week. So, it’s kind of a celebratory end of the school year kind of thing to do. [And] of course, crawfish and beer.”

For more information and updates on the event, you can visit www.mudbugmadness.com.


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