As the temperature rises and the summer comes into swing, the hustle of New Orleans festival season tends to slow down. But that doesn’t mean the celebrations stop. Though the summer usually paves the way for lazy, quiet days, there are still many wonderful events that shouldn’t be missed. One of the smaller local festivals is the Creole Tomato Festival, which is celebrating its 30th Anniversary in 2016.
This year, the festival runs from June 11-12 and promises to be the biggest ever. Instead of staying contained to the French Market, the festival is stretching out and will set up a stage, plus food and craft vendors, at the main warf in Crescent Park, the riverfront park that stretches downriver from the French Quarter. The expansion promises more activities for festival goers to explore, as well as the best view of downtown.
This is a festival to celebrate tomatoes, especially our beloved Creole tomato. For decade, farmers in St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parish have called their tomatoes Creole, which meant that they were grown in the rich alluvial soil of the area and vine ripened, because they didn’t have to travel farm to the market. Farmers in Southern Louisiana today still follow in these traditions and plant many similar varieties, supplying the region with the favored, plump tomatoes that are in so many favorite local recipes.
At the festival, you can catch a Second Line kicking through the French Market to start up the weekend. Throughout the day, there are cooking demonstrations and local farmers’ markets, as well as live music. This year, there will be three different stages spread out along the river, including one kid’s stage. Favored local acts like the Pinettes, an all-female brass band, and Little Freddie King will be playing for the crowd.
But the reason to come is, of course, for the food vendors. At a festival honoring the Creole tomato, the food booths are filled with fresh, creative approaches to preparing tomatoes. You can find tomatoes stuffed with crab meat and cheese, tomato and basil crepes, fried green tomatoes, creole tomato gelato and dozens of refreshing tomato cocktails, including a vendor with thirty different kinds of Bloody Marys.
Best of all, this festival is free and open to the public, so there’s absolutely no reason to miss it. Make sure you get on down to the French Market to celebrate one of our most loved vegetables.