New Orleans festivals and major events planning to return in 2021

Last year, a normally bustling spring festival season in New Orleans got axed because of the pandemic. However, this year seems a bit more optimistic for festival-goers with declining COVID-19 cases and increased vaccination efforts.

Some New Orleans festivals are announcing a return to the festival schedule with in-person events.

Two popular events, the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience and the Lousiana Crawfish Festival, were among the first major festivals to announce new dates for near-normal events this spring, with limited capacity and social distancing measures.

Another event, Hogs for the Cause, the popular barbecue and music festival, plans to get smoking in June.

Cooking, eating and playing at Hogs for the Cause Friday, March 23, 2018 at UNO on the Lakefront. (Dinah Rogers Photo)

Other major events, like the Crescent City Classic, will once again adapt to a virtual format due to the ongoing pandemic. Essence Fest will attempt a “hybrid” approach, with mostly a virtual event and a scaled-down version of taped performances for a select group of local guests in New Orleans.

Many of the biggest festivals, like French Quarter Fest and Jazz Fest, have decided to postpone until this fall. Other events, like the Ponchatoula Strawberry Fest, will wait to return in 2022.

We’ve rounded up a list of major annual New Orleans festivals and events slated to return to the festival lineup, so far. Check back for updates as we get them, and keep in mind details remain fluid.

Here’s a list of upcoming New Orleans-area festivals and major events planning a return with in-person formats in 2021:

NOLA Crawfish Festival: April 10 – 11

Known as the “NOLA Crawfish King,” Chris “Shaggy” Davis will bring back his NOLA Crawfish Festival a little earlier than its normal time in late April. This year, the event merges boiled crawfish and music at the Broadside on April 10 – 11.

Source: NOLA Crawfish Fest

The music lineup features Ivan Neville and Friends, on Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, Good Enough for Good Times and Angelica “Jelly” Joseph. Tickets are now on sale for the event.


Farmstand Live: April 24 and May 1

Festival-goers anxiously waiting for the return of Jazz Fest in October can look forward to a new event hoping to fill its void this spring.

The inaugural Farmstand Live, a drive-in music and food event, will head to the Shrine on Airline on April 24 and May 1, traditionally the two Saturdays of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

Photo credit: Jeff Farsai

The music lineup includes Jon Cleary, George Porter Jr., Dumpstaphunk, Honey Island Swamp Band, Smoke N Bones and SOUL Brass Band.

Attendees will also receive prepared boxed dinners from local restaurants and farm-fresh produce boxes from Crescent City Farmer’s Market.

Each vehicle will have three dedicated parking spaces, based on the current state COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, organizers said. Three price points are available for tickets, on sale now.


Louisiana Crawfish Festival: April 29 – May 2

Organizers for the Louisiana Crawfish Festival in St. Bernard Parish announced new spring dates for the event: April 29 to May 2. The event returns to the Frederick J. Sigur Civic Center in Chalmette.

Source: Nola Weekend Photo

The Louisiana Crawfish Festival is known for its laundry list of mudbug-filled dishes, including crawfish bread, crawfish pasta and other varieties. Organizers also say this year will bring “additional protocol and rules like limited attendance inside the festival gates at one time.”


Hogs for the Cause: June 4 – June 5

Hogs for the Cause, the popular barbecue and music festival, will get smoking on June 4 and June 5. Organizers also announced the festival will move to a new venue while the UNO Lakefront Arena continues to operate as a COVID testing site. This year, the event will take place at the outdoor, 15-acre Plaquemines Parish Government Facility in Belle Chasse.

Source: Dinah Rogers Photo via Hogs for the Cause

The music lineup includes Robert Randolph and the Family Band featuring The Soul Rebels and Brandon ‘Taz’ Niederauer, The Iceman Special, Old Crow Medicine Show, Andy Frasco & The UN, Travers Brothership and Sweet Crude, plus more to be announced.

As part of the safety policy, all guests, staff and artists will be expected to wear face coverings, get temperature checks and expect screenings. Tickets are now on sale for Hogs for the Cause, limited to 25% of the venue capacity.


New Orleans Wine & Food Experience: June 9 – June 13

The New Orleans Wine & Food Experience (NOWFE) rescheduled its annual event for June 9 to June 13. The culinary and wine-focused festival has been a staple New Orleans event for nearly 30 years, featuring wine dinners, premium tasting events and seminars.

Source: NOWFE

While the grand tastings are scheduled to return, one notable change in this year’s schedule is the absence of the popular Royal Street Stroll for 2021. Other events slated to return this summer include the Tournament of Rosés on Fulton Street and Burlesque, Bubbly, and Brunch led by beloved burlesque dancer Trixie Minx.


Jean Lafitte Seafood Festival: June 25 – June 27

The Jean Lafitte Seafood Festival will take place at the Lafitte Grounds and Auditorium from June 25 to June 27. The Lafitte Seafood Fest features three days of Grammy Award-winning music, Louisiana food and other activities.

Source: Jean Lafitte Seafood Festival

The music lineup includes Marshall Tucker Band, Gin Blossoms, Revisiting Creedence, Tab Benoit, Chapel Hart, Allie Colleen, Marc Broussard, Cowboy Mouth, Amanda Show and Rockin’ Dopsie & the Zydeco Twisters, Nashville South, Perfect Love, Junior Lacrosse, Them Ol’ Ghosts, Aaron Foret and Ryan Foret.

While the festival will center around South Louisiana’s seafood and cuisine, organizers say the festival will also include swamp tours, kayak and pirogue rentals, carnival rides, a wine walk and a Louisiana art walk.

Gates open at 5 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Admission to the three-day festival is $10 on Friday, $15 on Saturday and Sunday. There is a three-day pass for $35 per person and a special $45 rate that includes three-day admission to the festival including entry into the Lafitte’s Barataria Museum and Wetland Trace and a swamp tour excursion.

For more information, visit the website.


Essence Fest: June 25 – 27 and July 2 – 4

Essence Fest will, once again, adapt to a mostly virtual format in 2021 over two weekends this summer on June 25-27 and July 2-4. However, as part of a “hybrid” approach, the Essence Festival of Culture will host what seems to indicate a scaled-down version of taped performances for a select group of local guests in New Orleans.

Essence Fest
Source: WVUE FOX 8 photo

“In continued partnership with the City of New Orleans and State of Louisiana and under strict adherence to guidance from health agencies, ESSENCE will produce live-to-tape activations available only to local New Orleans and Louisiana residents, honoring essential workers and first responders,” Essence Fest announced.


Uncle Sam Jam: July 3

Wilson Phillips and The Guess Who will headline the Uncle Sam Jam when it returns to Al Copeland Concert Meadows in Lafreniere Park on July 3.

This year, the event celebrates its 25th anniversary, marking the return of the popular Metairie music and fireworks celebration.

Source: Wilson Phillips

Uncle Sam Jam will kickoff the Independence Day weekend with a free, open-air concert and fireworks display.

For the first time, a Lucky Dog National Hot Dog Eating Contest will also take place at the event, officials announced.


French Market Creole Tomato Festival: July 3

The French Market Creole Tomato Festival is ripe for a return to the festival schedule on July 3.

French Market Creole Tomato Fest
Photo courtesy: French Market Creole Tomato Fest

For its 35th year, the festival will take a hybrid approach with events at the French Market, online programming on social media and other activities at partner locations throughout New Orleans. The annual family-friendly event celebrates Louisiana’s Creole tomato with festival dishes and unique bloody marys.

The festival will also feature Creole tomato dish food booths, Creole tomatoes for sale by local farmers, and kid’s activities. Festival-goers can enjoy live music performances via the inaugural NOLA Zydeco Festival taking place at the neighboring New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old U.S. Mint on the same day.

For more information about the French Market Creole Tomato Festival, visit the website.


NOLA Zydeco Fest: July 3

The NOLA Zydeco Fest debuts as a new event celebrating South Louisiana music, food and culture at the New Orleans Jazz Museum on July 3.

With the launch of the new event, festival-goers will seemingly get a two-for-one festival experience. The NOLA Zydeco Fest will take place right across from the French Market’s Creole Tomato Festival, happening on the same day.

Sean Ardoin on Stage, Source: SeanArdoin.com

This free, family-friendly event will feature live bands and musical acts and offer authentic Zydeco dance lessons, along with access to delicious food vendors and historical exhibits in the New Orleans Jazz Museum.

The festival takes place from noon to 7 p.m. at the New Orleans Jazz Museum at 400 Esplanade Avenue.

For more information, visit the NOLA Zydeco Fest website.


Satchmo SummerFest: July 31 – Aug. 1

Kermit Ruffins is among more than 20 acts set to perform when Satchmo SummerFest returns to the New Orleans Jazz Museum on July 31 and Aug. 1.

This year, Satchmo SummerFest returns as a two-day event instead of the usual three-day event held each summer.

Photo credit: Zack Smith Photography via French Quarter Festivals, Inc.

Other acts scheduled to perform include Roots of Music, Treme Brass Band, James Andrews, Charmaine Neville, The Nayo Jones Experience, Meschiya Lake, Robin Barnes, and Hot 8 Brass Band.

Dozens of artists will perform across two tented stages during the two days of the festival. See the full 2021 music schedule here.

The annual festival celebrates the life, legacy and music beloved New Orleans musician Louis Armstrong.

Tickets will be $7 in advance and $10 at the door. Capacity is limited, and organizers strongly recommend that attendees register here in advance to secure their spot and avoid lines.

Attendees can also enjoy food from festival vendors Ajun Cajun, 14 Parishes, and Plum Street Snoballs. Look for the full music, presentation, and culinary lineup at satchmosummerfest.org.


New Orleans Bourbon Fest: Aug. 18 – Aug. 21

The New Orleans Bourbon Fest is scheduled to return for the enjoyment of bourbon lovers. Organizers announced the 2021 event will take place Aug. 18 to Aug. 21.

The annual event features seminars, grand tastings, dinners and other bourbon-centric events. This year, the event is schedule to take place a the Hilton Riverside and Contemporary Arts Center.


Que Pasa Fest: Sept. 18 – Sept. 19

Que Pasa Fest returns to celebrate the Hispanic influence and contributions to New Orleans.  The two-day festival will head to Lafreniere Park on Sept. 18 to Sept. 19.

Now in its 10th year, the annual event takes place during Hispanic Heritage Month, which is recognized in the United States from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

Source: Que Pasa Fest

The free outdoor festival will feature more than 15 food booths from different Latin American countries. Other vendor booths at the festival will focus on community outreach.

Festival-goers can expect live performances from local and international acts, and the children’s area will also return to this year’s event.

Organizers say festival-goers can bring chairs and blankets, but no outside food or drinks are allowed.

The festival will run from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on both days.


Abita Springs Busker Festival: Sept. 19

Traditionally held in the spring, the Abita Springs Busker Festival announced a move to this fall, Sept. 19.

This Northshore festival celebrates Louisiana roots music and showcases notable buskers, or street performers, from the greater New Orleans area.


Top Taco: Sept. 23

Organizers for Top Taco, the annual taco and tequila-centric festival, announced the event will return this fall at a new location in Jefferson Parish. This year, Top Taco will take place at Lafreniere Park in Metairie on Sept. 23.

Source: Top Taco

At the festival, local restaurants and mixologists compete for top honors in four categories: Top Creative Taco, Top Traditional Taco, Top Creative Tequila Cocktail and Top Traditional Margarita.

Organizers confirm nearly two dozen restaurants are set to participate in this year’s festival, spanning newcomers to returning champions.

Some returning champions include 2019 winners Johnny Sanchez, Tacos & Beer, Barracuda, Los Jefes and Velvet Cactus.

Newcomers to this year’s event include El Cucuy, Hotel Fontenot’s Peacock Lounge, Way of the Taco, Palm & Pine, Pedro’s Taco & Tequila Bar, Mama’s Cantina, and Seither’s Seafood. Metairie favorites like Zócalo, Tacos del Cartel, Mawi Tortillas and El Paso Mexican Grill will also compete for the awards. Other returning competitors include Justine, Casa Borrega, Flamingo A Go-Go, Espiritu, and Felipe’s Taqueria.

For more information, visit the Top Taco website.


Beignet Fest: Sept. 25.

Beignet Fest, the annual festival featuring creative and traditional beignet creations, returns to the festival grounds at New Orleans City Park on Sept. 25.

Now returning for its fifth year, the fest will feature dozens of beignet dishes, live music, local artists, a beer garden and a sensory-friendly Kids Village for children of all abilities.

beignet fest
Cinnamon Beignet Bites from The Vintage, one festival vendor; Source: Beignet Fest

The music lineup features Daria & The Hip Drops, Imagination Movers, Marc Stone 3, TBC Brass Band and Bo Dollis Jr. and the Wild Magnolias.

The festival also serves as a fundraiser for the Tres Doux Foundation, with proceeds benefiting community programs that serve children with autism and related developmental differences.

Beignet Fest will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Organizers say food vendors and a full menu will be announced later this summer.

This year, Beignet Fest will charge a $20 admission per person this year “to continue to grow and fulfill its mission,” organizers said in a release. Children age 4 and under enter free with a paid adult.

Tickets are on sale via the Beignet Fest website.


French Quarter Festival: Sept. 30 – Oct. 2

The 2021 French Quarter Fest will return this fall as a three-day event, instead of the usual four-day event, from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2.

After a request from City officials, organizers shifted the fest to three days due to a conflict with a Saints home game on Oct. 3.

Photo by Zack Smith Photography, Courtesy of French Quarter Festivals, Inc.

Tank & The Bangas, Irma Thomas, Soul Rebels and Kermit Ruffins top the lineup of more than 200 acts across 19 stages throughout the historic French Quarter.

Organizers said they prioritized the booking of many bands from the 2020 lineup. Artists making their debut include Rickie Lee Jones, Big Chief Juan Pardo & The Golden Comanches, Fermín Ceballos + Merengue4FOUR, Sporty’s Brass Band, Chapel Hart Band, and Lilli Lewis.

The festival will also feature more than 50 local restaurants in the festival’s culinary lineup.

The festival will operate from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. Thursday, September 30 through Saturday, October 2.


New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival: Oct. 8 ‐ 17

Organizers of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival announced that this year’s event has been rescheduled for Oct. 8‐17. Jazz Fest organizers say they will begin announcing details about the 2021 Fest this spring.

jazz fest 2019
Source: NOLA Weekend photo

Bluesberry Festival: Oct. 9

The Bluesberry Festival, one of the newer North Shore events celebrating art and music, was previously held in late spring. The Covington event now moves to Oct. 9, and tickets are on sale now.

Source: Louisiana Northshore

BUKU Music + Art Project: Oct. 22 – 23

Megan Thee Stallion, Illenium, Machine Gun Kelly and Playboi Carti top the lineup for BUKU: Planet B, a one-time festival alternative for BUKU Music + Art Project, on Oct. 22 – 23.

More than 50 acts are slated to perform at the diverse and eclectic festival known for showcasing artists in hip-hop, EDM, R&B and the indie music scenes.

buku fest
Photo courtesy: BUKU Music + Art Project

Other artists scheduled to perform include Playboi Carti, Kaytranada, Zeds Dead, Alison Wonderland, Jamie xx, Pooh Shiesty, Chris Lake, Still Woozy, EARTHGANG, Ghostemane, Ashnikko, Subtronics, SVDDEN DEATH: VOYD, Arlo Parks, Flo Milli, LSDREAM, Purple Disco Machine, Remi Wolf, slowthai, $NOT and Yung Baby Tate, among others.

Planet B will also feature more than 20 local New Orleans to support the local arts community, including the first festival performance by Pell’s GLBL WRMNG collective.


Gretna Heritage Festival: Oct. 22 – Oct. 22

The Gretna Heritage Festival will take place Oct. 22 to Oct. 24, Jefferson Parish officials announced.

According to a news release, this year’s festival will have a “smaller footprint with many changes.”

Source: Gretna Heritage Festival

The Gretna Heritage Festival is known for encompassing 25 city blocks and features stages with performances by national entertainers along with some of Louisiana’s favorites.

The popular West Bank festival also features dozens of food vendors, a beer garden, arts and crafts and carnival rides and games. In 2019, the Gretna Heritage Festival celebrated its 25th anniversary.


New Orleans Greek Festival: Nov. 5 – 6

Organizers for the New Orleans Greek Festival will reschedule the event traditionally held Memorial Day weekend for this fall. This year, the event will move to Nov. 5 -6, organizers confirmed.

Organizers said plans are already underway for the festival to return to the grounds of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral.

Photo courtesy: Greek Fest via Frank Aymami Photography

As in previous years, the festival will feature a menu of authentic Greek dishes including baklava, roasted lamb, gyro and moussaka. Other menu items for festival-goers include the traditional Greek dinner plate, popular pastries and fine Greek wines.

The cultural immersion will also include performances from the Hellenic dancers and music from a live Greek band. Organizers say the event will follow all COVID-19 guidelines.

Keep up with the latest festival updates at the New Orleans Greek Festival website.


New Orleans Film Festival: Nov. 5 – 14

The New Orleans Film Society (NOFS) announced that the 32nd annual New Orleans Film Festival will be held in-person between Nov. 5-14 in venues across the city as well as a Virtual Cinema accessible globally between November 5-21.

Source: New Orleans Film Festival

The festival brings together more than 160 films and hosts nearly 500 filmmakers in New Orleans each year, celebrating works of emerging and established filmmakers from New Orleans, Louisiana, the South, and beyond.

Film lovers can watch new works of storytellers firsthand and meet fellow film buffs mingling at festival venues and parties. Audiences also get a chance to meet filmmakers in person at talkback sessions after screenings.

The festival lineup will be announced on September 22.

Festival passes are on sale now via the New Orleans Film Festival website.


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