Lovers of poultry that's been battered, dipped, and fried can rejoice, the National Fried Chicken Festival is returning to the Big Easy.

Organizers of the food and music festival have confirmed that the event will return on October 23 and 24 on the banks of Lake Pontchartrain.

Cleveland Spears, founder of the annual event, says the festival will be held in a new location, on a stretch of parklike grounds between Franklin Avenue and Seabrook Bridge. The location runs parallel to the UNO Lakefront Arena, but on the other side of the levee.

Like just about every big event in America, the 2020 edition of the festival was a victim of the pandemic. But behind the scenes, Spears and his team were planning to bring it back.

The National Fried Chicken Festival is sponsored by Raising Cane's, however, the focus of the festival is smaller restaurants, food trucks, caterers, and those whose passion is fried chicken.

“We think it’s about great chefs and restaurants making unique versions of fried chicken. That’s the headliner,” Spears said. “Our team is working with new and returning restaurants to be more creative with their dishes. For a new vendor looking to come in, if they’re proposing fried chicken with sides, that’s probably not going to make it in. We’re looking for creative dishes that incorporate fried chicken.”

The first Fried Chicken Festival was held in 2016 in Lafayette Square and was an immediate success with a huge turnout. In the second year, it moved to bigger digs at Woldenberg Park, between the Mississippi River and the French Quarter. The event would grow to three days and had a reported attendance of 183,000 over that span of three days.

But Spears thinks that at least a third of those people were just "simply passing through" and really didn't spend much time at the festival or explore any of its offerings.

He thinks the new location will mean a smaller but more engaged crowd, with more people making a day out of it. He said he's planning for 50,000 people per day this year.

“The folks coming now will be coming for our festival, and we’ll make it worth their while with new programming on the stages and across the festival grounds,” Spears said.

The lakefront area is twice the size of the Woldenberg Park location, he said.

The National Fried Chicken Festival will be held Saturday, October 23 from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm and Sunday, October 24 from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm.

For more information about the festival, visit FriedChickenFestival.com.

 

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