Friday, July 4, 2008

Mandeville Seafood Fest Rocked!

First of all, I am writing this post out on my patio at 11:30pm in the most beautiful weather, listening to crickets and fireworks all around. Hard to believe it is July in Louisiana and I am not even sweating and apparently the bugs are asleep tonight. Humidity is very low and it is amazing!

Before I get to the parking/shuttle issue at the Mandeville Seafood Festival this year allow me to rave about the new venue and all the fun we had!

If you are a local, you will know that the festival was moved from the normal location at the Mandeville Lakefront to it's new location at Fountainbleau State Park. It had outgrown it's previous location and the park allowed for more vendors, entertainment stages and space in general.

First we started out in the kiddie section doing the bounce house and the pony rides. We stopped at that because they were charging a dollar a ticket and both of those rides took 3 tickets each! Ouch! (I guess since kids get in free they make up the difference with charging so much for the activities).

After that we circled the food vendors deciding what we wanted to eat. So many delicious choices and only one stomach per person to hold the food. We decided on Fried Shrimp & Hushpuppies since both hubby and daughter wanted that and the boy loves it too. I had my eye on a Crawfish/Spinach Bisque in a bread bowl. Still wish I would have gone that route. I saw several carrying it around and it looked awesome! My second choice was Fried Green Tomatoes! Always a great choice for me. $12for all of us to eat. Not bad.

Anywho, probably the best part of the whole experience was sitting out on the beach and listening to the band on the main stage. It was heaven. A nice breeze was blowing, no humidity, no sweating, the band sounded good, the sun was going down on the lake, the boats were lit up on the lake, the pier was lit up. It was spectacular! (My photos don't do it justice!) We brought our chairs and the kids just sat in the sand and played while we drank a cold one (only $4- not bad) and listened to the music. Rained threatened many a time tonite. We even felt a few drops but it passed by and left us only with a nice breeze! Thank you very much!

After a bit I broke away from the hubby and kids and went around to all the craft/gift booths and did a bit of browsing solo style. On the way back to the beach I picked up a Praline Iced Coffee for myself, two dippin' dots for the kids and tried to get hubby a beer but didn't have any hands left to carry it.

I found hubby and kids in the same state as I left them and then sent hubby for his own beer. I kicked off my shoes, dug my toes into the sand and just listened to the music! I just sat in amazement at the number of people at the festival and the fact that I was not dripping in sweat for the first time in the four years I have been going to this festival! It had to be at least 3 times more people than normal. And it was the first night. Unbelieveable! They were right. Find a bigger venue and more people will come. They had so many people that they postponed the fireworks 15 minutes because they said they still had about 17 bus loads of people waiting to be shuttled in to the festival and they wanted to wait to make sure they got to see the fireworks.

We watched the fireworks and then hung out a bit more and listened to the band. We figured it would be a mad rush after the fireworks to leave. So we waited a bit and then eventually headed out to catch the shuttle back to our car. That is when the fun started . . .

Remember the images you saw of the people at the superdome after Katrina waiting to get on the buses to leave New Orleans? Well, it was a definite re-enactment tonite at the Seafood Festival. There had to be 500 people standing outside the gates waiting to be shuttled out of the park to their cars at Pelican Park. There were tons of buses sitting there already full but couldn't move because of the traffic gridlock. If I could offer one bit of advice to the festival planners for next year it would be not to let ANYONE park in the state park and make everyone be shuttled. This would eliminate the traffic problem and the problem with all the people walking out to their cars parked within the state park. My hubby asked some police officers standing nearby what was the plan to get everyone out of there and they shrugged their shoulders and said, "We honestly don't know. We were told to get out here because the crowd was getting too big."

There happened to be one bus sitting near us with no one on it. My hubby went up to the driver and asked what was up? She said her boss told her not to open her door until she got closer to the exit gate. Well, shortly after that she opened her door and my hubby saw and we went running and got on as fast as we could before somone said no. Just as we got on a police officer came up and said she can't do that as it would cause a lot of problems with the crowd. She told him her boss radioed her and told her to open her door and let people on. We were the last to get on and got so lucky! And to top it off, her bus was air conditioned (not all were) and that turned out to be a great benefit because it took us about 40 minutes to get through the traffic and back to our car.

The bus driver informed us that they started the day out with 8 buses and the planners never expected such a large crowd that they had to call in as many buses as they could find. She said last she heard they were up to 17 buses! The signs said the buses were only running until 1am. It was 10:00pm and I think they were going to be running much longer than that! There were still tons of people to shuttle out of there! Our driver was super nice and one lady went around and gathered up tips for her just out of appreciation for her patience and the mere fact that she let us on the bus!

The amazing part was that so many people gave up on waiting and walked back to their cars. The bus driver said it was a three mile walk. Some were even carrying their kids (some sleeping on them) or were wearing heels. One walking lady literally threw herself out on the road in front of our bus trying to hitch a ride. She pounded on the door. The bus driver said she was too full and couldn't take her. The lady flipped out and gave everyone on the bus the finger and was screaming at us. Our bus was a riot. Everyone was joking and telling the bus driver to just run everyone down who was in the road - heck, Mayor Eddie Price would do it!

The Boy didn't make it to the car awake. The bus ride put him to sleep. The girl fell asleep as soon as our car hit the road back home.

It was a great night and fun time all around - despite the exit plan. I trust that issue will be fixed next year - or even tomorrow night! This is the Festival's maiden voyage at this venue. They will have a few things to learn and correct. I swear, based on the crowd there tonight this could be the next Jazz Fest some day!

Thank you Mandeville Seafood Festival Planners! We loved it! Oh! And thank you Mother Nature for our first Seafood Fest that we didn't come home from completely drenched in sweat!

1 comment:

mimosa momma said...

I am sooo bummed that we missed it! This was the 1st year ever that we didn't make it. I have to add that there was a ton of people out at the lakefront for the fireworks...but they probably didn't get to see much. The view was not good.