In addition to floral fireworks in the countryside, one of the surest ways of knowing that Spring has arrived is the start of weekend festival season.
In the Southern US, the most popular festival themes are food (strawberries, crawfish, shrimp, and barbecue), music (blues and jazz), and flowers (azaleas and roses). Our choice this past weekend was the Strawberry Festival in Ponchatoula, Looo-ziana.
As the self-proclaimed Strawberry Capital of the World, Ponchatoula knows how to throw a bodacious berry fête. This festival was one of our annual pilgrimages when we lived in New Orleans, and it was a pleasure to return.
All the essential ingredients for fun and gluttony were there to be had. First and foremost was the opportunity for some great people-watching – and this festival brings out the “strawberry” in everyone.
There were the always tasty, deep-fried delights – which in Louisiana includes a preponderance of seafood of all types; the midway with rides and games of chance and skill (yeah, right); and a parade, which was the high point for us.
Ponchatula is only 50 miles from New Orleans, so the parade was part small-town cute, and part Mardi Gras brawl for beads and doubloons. There were a number of talented, endearing all girl dance troupes that couldn’t have been more adorable, and lots of company sponsored floats. The cool thing about the company floats was that most had all the employees and their families on board, tossing goodies to the crowd.
And we were right in there with the rest of ‘em: “Hey Mister, throw me something!” This is our pile of booty, and yes, that is a package of English muffins (a first for us). A local bakery was tossing muffins and loaves of bread to the crowd. Picture a big, fat loaf of bread flipping baton-like through the air to get the full comic effect of this moment. I am not making this up.
And of course, there were all things strawberry: strawberry shortcake, strawberry daiquiris (leaded and unleaded), strawberry ice cream, strawberries dipped in chocolate and coconut, and strawberries breaded and deep-fried.
Even though some of you may be wondering if Spring will ever arrive where you live, I’m sure that it will. When it does, venture forth and find a bodacious weekend festival. Then eat too much, drink too much, get a sunburn, and welcome Spring properly.
James and Terri
I am laughing out loud at the loaf of bread swirling through the air. Hopefully not a heavy rye variety or parade goers may soon need to wear helmets! A wonderful slice of spring for those of us who shoveled inches of snow through the day. It’s relentless here!
Sue, the thought of snow isn’t pleasant for sure. The weather here is probably about the same as a nice summer day in Calgary – 80/50 F. And the festival was just as much fun as it looked . Great people-watching. ~James
Sounds splendid James and yes that would be summer here. This morning the sun is shining brightly so spring is trying it’s best to arrive. Yesterday we saw two Canadian geese who had wandered up from the river on to our neighbor’s lawn. covered in snow they really seemed to be asking to come inside. 🙂
That strawberry shortcake looks soooo delicious!
The strawberry shortcake was delish. In fact, I had to go back for seconds. ~James
What delicious fun! I love all things strawberry.
Darlene, if you love all things strawberry, this was the festival for you. The deep-fried strawberries were new for me, but the combo sounded strange, so we just stayed with a daiquiri and shortcake. ~James
In the UK we get most of our strawberries from Spain but there is nothing to beat an English fruit – sadly the season is very short!
Andrew, it seems that the local harvest always tastes better than imports. I suppose that the transport always takes a toll on fresh fruits. ~James
What a fun day! That is a first, tossing English muffins to the crowd. 🙂
LuAnn, I didn’t mention the candy being thrown to the crowd. The kids on the floats were very energetic and were tossing candy by the handful. It sounded like hail bouncing off the cars along the parade route. Big fun. ~James
Those people in Louisiana really know how to do a parade! 🙂
Delicious to look at .. delightful to read. Happy strawberries!!
Thanks Virginia. I suspect that in your part of the world you get a steady stream of California berries, which I’m sure are good. But these Louisiana berries, when eaten in the warm sun, were very nice. ~James
I must confess that I do have problems with California strawberries. They look gorgeous but they don’t have any of that wonderful juicy strawberry flavour. V.
There are always lots of photogenic folks at these weekend festivals. ~James
I don’t know any state that does festivals better than Louisiana! Haven’t been to this strawberry event but now want to go. I’ll be writing about Amite’s Crawfish Festival soon with many similar features. However, no one tossed out English muffins! Beads and berries really do make for a good time!
I agree Rusha, LA knows how to have a good time. I haven’t been to the Amite festival, but anything in LA that involves crawfish is usually serious business. I’ll look forward to the post. Enjoy the festival. ~James
The grocery items are the best! We were sad to miss the St Patrick’s day parade in NOLA this year. Last year we caught cabbage, carrots, irish spring soap, lucky charms and top ramen as well as beads of course! We have never been to the strawberry festival – maybe next year when we are back in the South!
Did you wear a helmet to the parade? An incoming cabbage could do some damage. Definitely check out the strawberry festival if you can. The parade starts early (9:30am), and parking can be a bit of a hassle, so plan accordingly. ~James
Mmm strawberries dipped in chocolate. Wish we had festivals like that here 🙂
The chocolate strawberries were really great, and the white chocolate/coconut dipped berries were awesome as well. What’s not to like? ~James
A… loaf of bread! That is a picture. (Did you have the leaded or unleaded daiquiris?)
Top points, though, for best use of the word “bodacious” I’ve seen in a blog title for some time. 🙂
Leaded Bronwyn, definitely leaded. Bodacious isn’t an easy word to use, but when I get the chance, I always slip it in. ~James
Looks like great fun.
I’m getting really hungry, but it’s after midnight and I’d better head for bed.
Vicki, this was the best festival we’ve attended in a while. The food was delicious, the weather perfect, and it was great people-watching. The perfect festival. ~James
That looks like fantastic fun! And I’m hungry 😉
It was lots of fun Linda and a great introduction to spring. I don’t think that you’ll be eating any Latvian berries for a few months. ~James
No, probably not! It’s around 20 degrees today though which is very pleasant!
Now that was a festival! Your shots are fabulous and love the fact that someone actually breads and fries a strawberries!
Thanks Martha! We couldn’t believe the breaded fried strawberries either. We had to pass, although we were tempted by the deep-fried Oreos, but we didn’t succumb. Instead we stuck with the strawberry daiquiris and shortcake – as James says, “Breakfast of champions!” 🙂 ~Terri
Strawberries in April? If we’re lucky this year we’ll experience the same culinary delights sometime in mid June. Interesting photos. Those strawberry glasses are crazy. We need to get those up here.
Southerners pay the price in summer, but springtime is the best down here. All the locals know that it’s going to be very hot soon, so these spring events are always well attended. And I also love these sunglasses. The two lovely ladies wore them with style and attitude. ~James
It looks like a good time was had by all. I wonder how many places in the US call itself strawberry capital of the world. I can think of several.
Lulu, you’re so right about the multitude of “strawberry capitals.” I’m not sure what qualifies a place for the title, but it seems it’s all done in good fun. 🙂 What are some strawberry capitals you know? ~Terri
Plant City, FL and Stillwell, OK come to mind.
Thanks Lulu. I didn’t know about Stillwell. ~T
Ponchatoula certainly has a rightful claim to the title, Strawberry Capital of the World, even if not exclusively. The one thing you can count on from the folks in Louisiana is they are definitely world class when it comes to throwing a party! Looks like you picked the right time to be there. – Mike
This really was a fun festival Mike. It seemed that the whole county turned out, and everyone got into the spirit. And of course, the strawberries were delicious. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate more and more special events in small places that aren’t such a hassle. Small crowds, easy parking, and reasonable prices are ideal. ~James
It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to write about it. 🙂
That’s me Anita; sacrificing for the team. I’m sure that there are some dandy festivals scheduled for Nashville soon. BTW, we just spent a few days in Meridian, MS – home of Jimmie Rogers – “The Father of Country Music.” Some folks up your way may not agree with this sobriquet, but in Meridian, he’s the bomb. ~James
Breaded and deep fried strawberries?! wow – I’m having difficulty imaging the texture and taste – unless it is ‘breaded’ in chiffon cake and ‘deep fried’ in chocolate 🙂
I hate to admit it Joanne, but in the Southern US, we can bread and deep fry anything. For me, strawberries and cream is the only way to go. ~James
Have you ever been to the Strawberry Festival in Plant City, Fl? I have relatives in Savannah that go every year, but I haven’t made it yet (it sounds like a county fair + strawberries). I keep meaning to give it a try, but just haven’t been in that part of the country at the right time (end Feb / early Mar).