The Deepwater Horizon Offshore Drilling platform exploded and sank into the Gulf of Mexico just a month and a half before the gates opened for last year’s inaugural New Orleans Oyster Festival. Although the proceeds from the event benefited those coastal communities affected, the Oyster Festival was not, as many believe, launched in direct response to the unfettered flow of oil that was erupting from the ocean floor. In fact, the BP Oil Disaster was the second time a man-made assault on Lousiana’s coast stymied event organizers, who planned on adding another New Orleans festival to the yearly lineup back in 2006 before a Federal levee failure got in the way.
It would be easy to say that timing has never been on the New Orleans Oyster Festival’s side, but quite the opposite may be true. Although it was a product of some perverse brand of demonic syzygy, last year’s weekend of food, music and state-fair style eating competitions and exhibitions came just as insidious rumors regarding the safety of local seafood began to reverberate around the country. It was not only another entrant in the pantheon of well-organized, well-attended southeast-Louisiana festivals, it was a disruptive celebration that brought much needed aid and attention to our suffering brothers, sisters and environment.
Still, the event was coated with an awkward and uncomfortable sense of impending doom, as the dearth of information about the immediate and long term effects of the oil leak gave paranoid credence to any predictions about the future of the Gulf Coast, even those that posited the 2009-2010 oyster season would be the regions’ last for decades. A year later it is clear that’s not the case, but lingering effects from BP’s gross negligence plus the flood of Mississippi River water headed out to sea after the opening of the Morganza spillway have kept local fisheries behind the eight-ball.
So, again, The New Orleans Oyster Festival comes along at a perfect time, when native seafood and the tens of thousands of people who depend on it for their livelihood are still on thin ice and could use a boost. In addition to the rows of local restaurants slanging boundless variations of inspired oyster creations, the event features wall-to-wall music from local favorites such as James Andrews, Irma Thomas, Big Sam’ Funky Nation, and Rockin’ Dopsie, Jr. Sometime-New Orleans resident John Popper and his new project, The Duskray Troubadours, will close out the first night of the festival.