I’ve always loved blueberries so this festival hit home. I’m not alone. For Emily Neustrom, combining her love for blueberries and the blues was obvious.
Emily was on her way to St. Francisville, Louisiana, to pick blueberries in a friend’s orchard. During the drive she was listening to KRBH, a high school blues radio station in Baton Rouge.
The music stayed with her while she was in the orchard picking blueberries, and the idea came to her: Lafayette has a festival for everything, why not one for blueberries. The fact that she was listening to the blues when the idea hit made it all come together. And thus the idea of the Bluesberry Festival came to life.
“I wanted to promote Louisiana blueberries; they’re one of my favorite plants. People don’t realize they’re a really easy crop to grow here and I don’t feel it’s supported as much as it could be. One of my passions is growing food and this is a really nutritious plant. Not to mention it has anti-cancer properties,” Emily said.
While still in the orchard, her mind reeling with possibility, she called up her good friend Mark Falgout, owner of the Blue Moon Saloon and Guesthouse, who quickly jumped on the idea.
“I called up Mark while I was still in the blueberry orchard to see if he would be interested in partnering with me to create this Bluesberry Festival for next season. I was imagining that we would do something next year since it was already blueberry season. I didn’t think we’d be able to pull of the event in such a short time frame, but Mark brought a lot of people to the table to help out and the rest is history.”
Now in its fourth year, the Bluesberry Festival is held annually in June at the Blue Moon Saloon during the peak of blueberry season. The event combines local chefs serving the sweet taste of blueberries every way you can imagine with the serenading sounds of the blues.
“I love agriculture, plants, food and music. It’s all these things I love that just kind of came together and created this little fun festival.”
The cook-off portion of the event gives local chefs free reign to cook whatever blueberry concoction they can come up. Restaurants participating in the blueberry cook off this year are Brick & Spoon, Café Vermilionville, Saint Street Inn, Social, French Press and Village Café. Last year’s winner, Pat Waters from Café Vermilionville, cooked an arugula, prosciutto, gorgonzola and blueberry chutney flatbread topped with parmesan cheese. The best part about the cooking contest is the attendees get to sample the dishes and vote for their favorite.
“We have had everything from pulled pork sliders with a blueberry sauce to corn soup topped with blueberries. We have some amazingly talented chefs in the area that come up with some pretty delicious dishes. We even have local home brewers, the Dead Yeast Society, creating a local Blueberry Homebrew that will be available to sample.”
Then there’s the music. It all kicks off with a front porch music jam with A.J. Primeaux & the Cats followed by Inner City Rhythm & Blues Band and Roscoe Chenier’s Band on the main stage with Lil’ Buck Senegal closing out the night.
The money raised from the Bluesberry Festival will go towards the Seed to Table Youth Farm, an organization Emily helped create and now manages. Located in the Truman neighborhoods in Lafayette, the project is a community garden that connects youth and adult mentors in hands-on farming and cooking projects. The Seed to Table Youth Farm was originally a three-year project made possible by a grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation. Neustrom hopes she can continue to find funding to keep the project going.
“The grant from Blue Cross helped us get the farm and project started. The response has been so positive that I would like to continue to evolve the project. The money raised from the Bluesberry Festival will held the Seed to Table Youth Farm purchase a much needed tractor tiller.”
This year’s Bluesberry Festival will be held June 14, 2014, beginning at 6 p.m. Tickets are $15 at the door. The admission price grants access to the cook-off as well as the music.