We were searching for things to do on the weekend from our campground near Marshall, Texas. We hadn't found anything in particular, until Friday at 10:00 p.m. when the news from the station in Shreveport, Louisiana, mentioned Crawfest. We did a quick google search, and found an article from the Shreveport newspaper that mentioned four different festivals on Saturday in Shreveport, plus two more in nearby Bossier City. It's a 40-mile trip to Shreveport, and we've been there before because one of our sons lived there for a couple years. We weren't planning to visit Shreveport again, but we just couldn't refuse six different festivals all on one Saturday, could we?
So we headed out early, and arrived just as the grounds to Bloomfest were opening up. This is actually the Norton Art Gallery, where they have 15,000 azalea plants in the gardens surrounding the gallery.
Besides the azalea blooms, Bloomfest also included several other family-friendly displays. We got to meet this Mississippi kite that had been injured and is now a spokes-bird for the local naturalist group.
He was showing off for us and posing for the camera.
Every festival has music, and this one included roaming bands of barbershop quartets. They brought their a capella music to the garden to serenade the festival-goers.
It looks like the rainy weather has kept all the blooms from opening, and we're guessing we saw less than half of peak flowering of the azaleas. But it was still a pretty day in the garden.
A close-up of that sweet little azalea face just makes Denisa smile. They have five petals, but only one is printed with that delicate detail. God does such neat artwork!
The miniature pansies were blooming their hearts out, just to show off in front of the azalea bushes. After all this is Bloomfest!
After an hour, we were on to our next festival just a mile's walk through the historic South Highlands neighborhood. Crawfest was just starting, with live music on the stage and people coming in to order the signature dish. We've had crawfish before, and we're not big fans. There's something a little spooky about eating something with eyes that seem to be watching you. But we did try it again today, just because it seems the proper thing to do at a Crawfest.
There were games for children and other food vendors, and people enjoying the perfect temperatures at the park.
A few vendors were enticing festival-goers with free give-aways and games. We spun the wheel, and we both landed on the big prize--free t-shirts from a local apartment complex. We're not sure if it was a typo on the shirt, or if this is just Louisiana Cajun talk, but we think the word "were" should actually have been "where." That might be why they were giving them away.
We were at Crawfest about an hour, then headed on to the next festival at The Plaza downtown. Parking was already getting scarce, and the plaza was getting crowded for the Battle of the Gumbo Gladiators.
This is a fund raiser for a local youth program, and 40 different gumbo cooks have brought big pots of steaming soup to vie for honors. A closely-guarded judging tent would make official decisions, but the people's choice awards were more fun.
We each got a gold coin when entering the plaza. Each sample of gumbo costs $2, and after sampling we would bestow our coin to our favorite. Obviously the gumbo chefs have to convince you to buy their soup before you will vote for them, so there was much salesmanship going on. It felt a little like a carnival, with barkers calling out to the crowd, or hawkers throwing beads to get people into their kitchen. The beads worked, and our first sample was the chicken and sausage gumbo at the Roux-Awakenings tent. It was delicious!
We tried several more, including one with frog legs, duck, and sausage. Some competitors enticed people with side-dishes like potato salad or bread. The lines got long at the tents of past winners. We came to find out that crawfish gumbo is not our favorite--no matter how long the line was. We eventually awarded our two golden coins to Roux-Awakenings, and then the cajuns that made the Frog-leg gumbo.
After an hour, we were on to our next festival of the day. But first we would have to cross the Red River to get to Shreveport's sister city--Bossier City.
That's where the first ever Corndog Huskers Festival was taking place. Sponsored by the local Sonic, it provided free corn dogs and lemonade to everyone that showed up (even if they were still wearing purple beads from the last festival).
This festival is still a work-in-progress, but we got to take a picture with the Sonic hotdog to commemorate our 4th stop of the day.
The 5th festival was also in Bossier City. The Maker's Fair included 80 different kiosks set along the Louisiana Boardwalk. All the products were home-made, and included everything from salsa to candles to clothing to pain remedies.
This is a great area to stroll, and there are also permanent stores all along the water front. We found a carousel nestled at the end of the store fronts, so Denisa had to ride it, of course.
She chose one of the prancing ponies. But you might notice that a red crawfish is chasing her. We're thinking that only in Louisiana would we find a crawfish on a carousel.
Bass Pro has one of their large stores on the waterfront as well. We're thinking that only in Louisiana would we find an alligator at a shopping venue.
We were running a little ahead of schedule, because our final festival didn't start until 4 p.m. So we even had time to stroll a little downtown, even though our legs were getting very tired. We've gone almost eight miles, and most of it on unforgiving concrete surfaces. Urban hiking is hard on our legs. But we did have enough energy to take a picture of the big dog statue in downtown Shreveport.
This section of the city has many abandoned and very sad-looking buildings. Crumbling store fronts have given way to weed-filled open lots.
But there's a little spot of beauty among the dilapidated buildings--Asian Park. That's where we are headed for our sixth festival of the day.
The 11th annual Aesean Festival includes many different cultures, that have pitched in to build and then police this park. Today they are celebrating with food booths, selling their homeland cuisine. We saw booths from Cambodia, China, Japan, India . . . it was tough to decide what to order. We purchased food at two different booths, and had a hearty meal.
We have said before that Asians aren't good at dessert. We have proof of that once again. After making a thorough search through all the vendors, we bought the most promising dessert after our meal. It looks and tastes like a purple sponge, and it was "frosted" with butter and then sprinkled with shredded cheddar cheese. We are devoted dessert-eaters, but even we couldn't finish it. One taste was enough.
The entertainment was fun, and we even got to dance before we left.
But our legs were mighty tired by the time we headed back to the car through more of the Asian Park.
We certainly had an interesting assortment of food today. We had crawfish, gumbo, corndogs, eggroll, and chicken and shrimp lomein. That's a one-day combination that we'll never have the opportunity to repeat ever again!
We love festivals, but we didn't know if even experienced travelers like us could make it to all six in one day. We felt a sense of accomplishment as we summarized our day on the way home. Any one of the festivals wouldn't have been worth the 40-mile drive to Shreveport, but all of them certainly made for a great day. We couldn't say that any one was our favorite. We decided that the tastiest was the Battle of the Gumbo Gladiators, the prettiest was Bloomfest, the best free give-aways were at Crawfest, the newest was Corndog Huskers, and the best music was at the Aesean Festival. Good job Shreveport for getting our vote for the best day of festivals so far this year!