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'Gator By the Bay' brings Mardi Gras to San Diego

20th Annual Gator By the Bay runs May 11-14 with New Orleans food, music and dancing.

SAN DIEGO — If you feel like celebrating Mardi Gras in May without a flight to New Orleans,  a four-day music and food festival kicks off May 11 at the San Diego Bay. 

In this Zevely Zone, I take a sneak peek of 20th Annual Gator By the Bay. The San Diego festival brings the tastes and sounds of New Orleans and the Louisiana Bayou to Spanish Landing Park from May 11-14.

Credit: Gator By the Bay

“It’s an event for the whole family, highlighting the culture of New Orleans and the Louisiana Bayou,” said festival producer Peter Oliver. “Nothing but good vibes as people from the region and newcomers who have never experienced the flavor of New Orleans and the western bayous joyfully celebrate in the true spirit.” 

If you're wondering how Louisiana landed on San Diego's shores, Peter traveled to Jazz Fest in New Orleans in 1988 and had such a good time he brought the party home with him. "It's true. It really is true. I can't hardly believe it myself, but it is true," said Peter.  

Credit: Gator By the Bay

The annual Gator By the Bay festival in San Diego’s picturesque Spanish Landing Park is the region’s largest celebration of the culture of New Orleans and the Louisiana Bayou.  

The festival boasts over 100 musical performances on seven stages, real cuisine of the region and more. The family-friendly event highlights some of the best Zydeco, roots, blues, Cajun, rockabilly, swing, salsa and New Orleans jazz directly from the region and a vast array of Cajun and Creole cuisine, including 10,000 pounds of crawfish brought in directly from Louisiana.

Credit: Gator By the Bay

A performer known as J7 will wow the 'Kids Zone' with fortune telling, bubbles, and fire eating. Even if you're born and raised in California, you'll feel right at home at Gator by the Bay when San Diego's Bay becomes a bayou. "It just makes my heart happy; I have to tell you what a way to go what a way to live life wow," said Peter.  

During our story we were entertained by musicians Theo & Zydeco Patrol, Vince Lee Blues Guitarist, Sophie Lord, Rick Lee, and Mercedes Moore. We also enjoyed desserts made by Beignet Belly. The French Quarter Food Court will boast Louisiana cuisine: Po’Boys, beignets, boudin and andouille sausage, hushpuppies, red beans and rice, Jambalaya, gumbo (gator and chicken), etouffee, gator on a stick and more. Mitch the Crawfish Man will boil a staggering 10,000 pounds of crawfish, directly from the bayous of Louisiana, guiding onlookers in how to “pinch those tails, suck them heads”. Guests will enjoy cooking demos in the true Cajun and Creole fashion by an esteemed chef straight from Louisiana.

Credit: Gator By the Bay

On Saturday and Sunday, Gator by the Bay attendees can learn to prepare some of those classic Louisiana dishes at the Taste of Louisiana Cooking Pavilion with special guests Chef Michael Fitzgerald from San Diego Mesa College Culinary Arts Department will and renowned Louisiana culinary expert, educator, TV personality and cookbook author, Chef Patrick Mould who will be presenting cooking demos and expert insight and instruction in preparing favorite Southern specialties.

The festival has grown to showcase not only Grammy-winning Cajun and Zydeco artists from Louisiana, but also legendary Chicago and California blues artists, rockabilly and roots performers, and award-winning salsa and Latin bands. Children 17 and under are admitted for free. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.gatorbythebay.com.

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