Mid-City neighborhood groups fire back at Bayou Boogaloo critici - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Mid-City neighborhood groups fire back at Bayou Boogaloo criticism

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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

As thousands packed Bayou St. John for Bayou Boogaloo on Friday, neighborhood leaders eagerly responded to criticism about the growth of the festival.

While some neighbors said the green space should be left alone, others thought it was the perfect site for the three-day celebration.

Big Freedia headlined opening night of the ninth year of Bayou Boogaloo, drawing crowds from across town.

"This is my first year making it here, usually I'm at work, but I made a point to come see Ms. Big Freedia," said festival-goer Brigeanna Steward.

Members of a group called The Greener Bayou St. John Coalition were likely not in the audience, however. They have made their disapproval of the festival well known, but they refused to do any more interviews as the backlash from other neighborhood groups grew strong.

"They don't represent us. They don't represent the neighborhood. They only represent their own special interests. That's it," said Jimmy Fahrenholtz of the Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association. "The people that want you to stay off their lawns should maybe just go to Gulfport this weekend."

The group's complaints, however, made it to the ears of city officials, and the city now charges a new "usage fee" of more than $7,000 for the Bayou St. John site.

"I think that those types of fees are too high, and so I'm working with the administration on that," said New Orleans Councilmember Susan Guidry.

Guidry said Bayou Boogaloo was able to get the fee waived this year, but another festival left Mid-City because of it.

"Earth Day Fest has always been here, and they were told it would be an $8,000 user fee, but on the other hand the city said 'we'll let you have Armstrong Park for $1,500.' And as it turns out, they went over to Armstrong and made half of the money they normally do," said Josef Wright of the Mid-City Business Association.

The Mid-City leaders who spoke to FOX 8 said they're proud to see the growth of the festival as Tulane Avenue gets a makeover, the hospital is set to open, and new businesses pop up around the Bayou.

"We've only been open for about a year," said Rand Owens, owner of Mid-City Pizza. "Come check us out on Banks Street! Best pizza in the city!"

However, since the Mid-City boom will only draw more crowds, Guidry said her office will monitor the festival's growth.

"Some people do have some concerns about it growing too big for the bayou, and my answer to that is, we'll see. We'll take it year by year," Guidry said. "I certainly don't believe it's outgrown the bayou as of yet."

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