- story by Ellis Anderson
During the weekend of November 3 and 4, the Hancock County Fairgrounds will become a camping community, filled with music lovers from around the region, all drawn by the inaugural Sugar Magnolia Festival.
This first-year event will feature some of the New Orleans area’s legendary musicians and some bright-light rising talents. (On the Sugar Magnolia website, you can check out videos of the different performers). A beer garden, art booths and a food court will round out the village-for-a-weekend.
The fun starts on Friday evening, with a loose Swamp Pop/Cajun-Zydeco theme. Performers include Heath Ledet, Nonc Nu and the Wild Matous w/Heath Ledet, and the Josh Garrett Band. The evening closes with a jam session starting at 10pm.
This Big Buzz
The afternoon sizzles with New Orleans favorites in some fresh combinations – like Camile Baudin, guitarist for the Radiators, teaming up with Brint Anderson, longtime guitarist for George Porter’s Runnin’ Pardners.
On Saturday, a smaller Beer Garden stage features hometown darling, Rochelle Harper, alternating with Heath Ledet from 2:20pm to 8:50pm.
The fun spin on this fest? Basic ticket prices include primitive campsites. Bring along a tent and dance you way to your sleeping bag. An adult one-day pass is $25 in advance/$30 at the gate, with two-day passes at $40 advance/$60 gate. Children 12 and under are free.
Not into roughing it? No problem. For an additional fee, you can “glamp” (For the uninitiated, glamping is short for glamour camping) in style with hookups. A one-day RV pass including AC/water hookups is $45 in advance, $55 at the gate, the two-day pass with hook -ups is $80 advance, $110 at the gate (please note - the hookup fees do not include individual festival tickets).
Love the idea of camping, but don't own a camper/RV? Gulf Coast Camping Rentals, one of the event sponsors, will deliver one of their campers to the fairgrounds, set it up and have it waiting for you. When the event’s over, just walk away – they’ll pick it up (you'll still be responsible for paying hookup fees and buying individual festival tickets).
What gave you the idea for doing a music festival at the fairgrounds? And why this time of year?
Over the last couple of years I've been attending a host of camping festivals around the country and taking notes on what makes them a unique part of their communities culture. After looking at many venues along the Gulf Coast to do this kind of event and weighing the pros and cons of all possible locations, I determined that the Hancock County Arena had the best facilities and location for my target audience.
The heat of summer in the South just isn't conducive to the best outdoor event experiences. Camping events down here are best held in the cool of fall where it is highly likely that our attendees will be treated to moderate temperatures, low humidity and beautiful clear blue skies! This only happens for a small window of time between Oct and November. After checking with the venue for possible openings, November 4th weekend seemed to be the perfect time to have this year’s inaugural launch.
What kind of audience do you expect to pull and from where?
Sugar Magnolia Fest would be best classified as an "Alternative" music festival. This kind of event has an eclectic following of very cool people from all age groups. This event will attract the kind of person who is socially conscious, open, creative, gregarious and those who share a deep sense of playfulness and youthfulness in their spirit! The target audience this year will be from the Gulf Coast, New Orleans, the North Shore and Hattiesburg areas. While we have high aspirations for the [festival’s] growth in future years, this year’s gathering will likely be a "planting of the seed" if you will, that can grow to a regionally significant event as we move forward.
Sugar Magnolia? Why the title?
Well, we live in Hancock Parish, right? A little bit of Louisiana and a little bit of Mississippi are all mixed up in this gumbo we call home. So I thought wouldn't it be cool to blend these two cultures into a festival to combine the ingredients of both states in music, food, art - and even in the name. Louisiana is known for sugar and the Magnolia is the state flower of Mississippi. Sugar Magnolia Festival combines these two iconic images of this area and presents to the region an idea of what they can expect from this event... a little bit of both.
What kind of music?
In keeping with the idea of blending Louisiana and Mississippi, this year we will have music genres from both states. Blues, Zydeco, Cajun, R&B, Indie and Funk will be represented. As this grows, we hope to incorporate a dedicated stage that would be devoted to promoting indigenous local music like Gospel, Delta Blues & Mississippi Jam bands. There is a whole lot of music that goes on in this state the most people are just not aware of because it's not played on the radio or in the local clubs. But when you hear it, it moves you on a deep and primal level and you know its just... right. Not only that, it's downright fun!
Tell us about the on-site camping facilities.
Yes, camping on site is available all weekend long and quite frankly, this is part of the allure of these types of events. Camping allow people, couples and families to enjoy the great outdoors in a very unique entertainment setting that is not offered in standard state parks or private campgrounds. If someone is so inclined they can pitch tents, or bring their "pop ups" and RV's and be able to set them up. The basic ticket price includes primitive camping with no hook-ups, with hookups for water and electricity available for an additional – and very affordable – price point. The Hancock County facilities are simply amazing and we will be offering a complete range of camping options at various affordable price points!
How do you see this event benefiting Hancock County in general through the rest of the year?
Diversity is the key to survival and this event will attract people who may not come to this area very often. By enticing them to attend this festival in the Kiln, they will enjoy a meandering car ride through bayou's and marshlands that quickly dispel the hustle and hectic pace of the city. It is not a big stretch to think that some will get smitten by the simple beauty and peacefulness that Hancock County offers. Hopefully they will return and check out the restaurants and shops on another trip and who knows? Maybe they would even decide to rent or buy a piece of property for their personal enjoyment year round.