Fans flock to Andouille Festival food
LAPLACE — While in culinary school, Briante Kimble of LaPlace watched YouTube videos for inspiration to build her own brand of signature food combinations.
Kimble put a Cajun spin to each idea and created mouthwatering Andouille Jambalaya Eggrolls, Crawfish Spinach Eggrolls and Spinach Nachos, three dishes relished by hundreds Friday through Sunday at the 45th annual Andouille Festival in LaPlace.
The weekend marked Kimble’s second year joining the Festival. As one of 28 food vendors, she promoted her locally owned business, Diva Delights Catering.
St. John the Baptist Parish Councilman Lennix Madere Jr. said there was a strong turnout Friday night and Sunday, while the threat of rain Saturday held back attendance.
Yet, Madere said those who did come out offered positive feedback on the rides, music and food.
“I haven’t heard any negative comments, and I think it was just as successful as the previous Festival last year,” Madere said.
“It brings the whole parish together, East Bank, West Bank, all in one location. There’s unity when people enjoy the same things at the same time. People liked the fact they had more rides for the kids and said the food was good, especially the booths that had jambalaya and pastalaya. We had cracklin in one of the booths from the West Bank that’s always a big seller. I think people were pleased.”
Parish President Natalie Robottom said presenting sponsor Marathon Petroleum Company helped keep the main stage hopping with zydeco, country and pop music.
“Attendance was impacted by rain on Saturday, but Friday night and Sunday brought large crowds to the festival grounds, boosting sales by our local businesses, non-profits and school organizations that rely on this as one of their annual fundraisers,” Robottom said, adding staff, entertainers, vendors and volunteers worked hard for a successful festival.
Official turnout numbers were not determined by Monday, according to St. John Communications.
Amid the threat of rain on a hot Saturday afternoon, Paul and Taylor Shirer of LaPlace were among those who turned out for the Festival, along with their 22-month-old son, Jax.
Taylor said the whole family enjoyed pairing Kimble’s crawfish eggrolls with a classic jambalaya dish.
“We’re from the area, so we’ve been coming to this Festival forever because we love the food and the bands,” Taylor said.
“This is our son’s first time, and he liked the food, too. There’s definitely no other festival like this one, because every single food vendor has something related to Andouille. No other festival advertises like that.”
The Shirer family also enjoyed children’s rides new to the 2018 festival, focusing much of their time by the towering fun slide.
While many families have made the Andouille Festival a tradition, others including Charles and Tammy Lane ventured to St. John the Baptist Parish from neighboring regions.
Charles and Tammy were first-time visitors from Jefferson Parish, but they plan to be back in the area soon to get another taste of Mama Jo’s Family Creole Kitchen’s southern cooking on U.S. 51 in LaPlace.
The pair savored crawfish bisque and fried chicken wings at the Festival but did not get a chance to enjoy Mama Jo’s smothered okra with Andouille sausage, potato salad or crab and shrimp stew.
“They gave me a card for her restaurant, so I’ll be back out this way no later than next week,” Charles said.
“We like to go out every weekend and eat somewhere, and this was really good.”
Next door to the Mama Jo’s tent, a family-led T&2J’s Enterprise served Andouille chicken and pasta, chicken wings with Andouille and specialty fried Jambalaya Andouille balls.
Gaynell Noble turned out to help her younger sister, Triniece Noble, grow her meal prep, wedding and event catering business. The goal, according to Gaynell, is to one day secure a storefront in LaPlace.
Denise Smith assisted Triniece in the T&2J’s tent, and she said positive community response came from unique menu offerings.
“We told everybody, it’s not a boudin ball; it’s a jambalaya ball,” Denise said. “I’ve been around LaPlace my entire life, and I’ve never seen anyone else make this.”
Some Festival attendees opted for familiar favorites.
After a long period of not attending the Festival, Ryan Bonfiglio of LaPlace returned to introduce his wife, an Egyptian immigrant, to classic Louisiana food and music.
He tried the Andouille Papa John’s pizza but was most impressed with the chicken Andouille gumbo from Wayne Jacob’s Smoke House.
Other attractions included nearly 30 craft booths and 25 rocking entertainers on the main stage. Children found joy in carnival rides, craft workshops and a Kid’s tent stage, featuring local performers.
Councilman Larry Sorapuru Jr. said he’d like to see increased involvement with local schools and choir groups in future years, but he’s pleased with the turnout and did not hear any suggestions for improvement.
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