NEW ORLEANS (NOLA.com) – Got room on your plate for one more food festival? NOLA Mac n Cheese Fest is coming to New Orleans in the fall.
Kent Broussard, who co-owns No Problem Raceway in Belle Rose, and his partner in life and in the new festival, Julie Egren, are in the thick of planning the event. They have settled on the date and time, Oct. 21, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and have permits for the location, Armstrong Park. Their website, NolaMmacnCheeseFest.com, went live Thursday (Jan. 19).
The festival will be a free, family-friendly event, with food and drink for sale and live music, Broussard said.
The couple has feelers out to restaurants and musicians and are working on the logistics of how they plan to arrange the festival inside the park, Broussard said.
Why mac and cheese?
“After the Fried Chicken Fest, neither one of us could believe how was there not a fried chicken festival before that,” Broussard said. Julie said, “Listen, you couldn’t invent the Post-it Note and you couldn’t come up with Fried Chicken Fest, what’s wrong with you?”
“Two weeks later, she said, ‘What about a mac and cheese fest? I thought, there has to be one of those,” he said.
The couple looked around found one in Chicago, but not many others and not one in Louisiana. They got to work.
For Broussard, the festival is a bit of a family affair. His brother, Russ Broussard, is married to musician Susan Cowsill, so, he said, they are helping reach out local musicians.
His sister is an artist, so he is consulting with her regarding an official, numbered festival poster.
He is planning, of course, to have a competition among the food vendors. He has a cousin who works at the Food Network, who is trying to line up a national judge. He plans to call on local food experts to judge the mac and cheese. Along with winners selected by the judges, there will likely be a people’s choice award and a mac and cheese winner chosen by only children.
The for-profit festival will select charities to support as well. That, too, is still being ironed out, but he expects one of them to be the Tres Doux Foundation, which supports children with autism in the New Orleans area. Amy and Sherwood Collins organized Beignet Fest to benefit that charity. The couple, whose oldest son was diagnosed with autism when he was 3 years old, has offered helpful advice about planning the festival, he said.
This is Broussard’s first food festival, but he does have event planning in his background. Raceway events attract thousands of people, “so I’m used to putting on large events with lots of people, just in a different venue.”
Egren, who is from Detroit, has her own accounting and bookkeeping business and, in Michigan, used to plan big, private parties.
Along with the food, music and activities, Broussard plans to focus on fixing some of the things that have annoyed him when he attends food festivals around South Louisiana.
“I’m just hoping that people who show up will have a great time and maybe a little different experience then people get at other food festivals,” he said.
Broussard, who was born Lafayette and grew up in Opelousas, said he plans to have high-top and regular tables, so festival goers won’t have to balance their plate and drink and try to eat.
He is working on figuring out to avoid long lines for food tickets, food and drink.
“I don’t want anyone to stand line for an hour and a half to get a drink or something to eat,” he said.
And, he wants to ensure there is enough space for folks to spread out. The festival will take place throughout Armstrong Park, so Broussard feels there should be room to accommodate what he’s hoping will be a big crowd.
Broussard said even though he and Egren were born in other places, they live here now and want to celebrate the city, its food and music.
“My girlfriend recently came home so excited. She said, ‘I found the perfect shirt.’ It said: I’m not from New Orleans, but I got here as fast as I could,” Broussard said.