Here in Louisiana, we love great food, great fun, and great festivals! The downtown areas of Leesville and Alexandria will offer plenty of all three during the first weekend of May this year with the arrival of the ever-popular annual celebrations MayFest and AlexRiverFête. So gather your family, friends, and sunglasses, it’s time for festival fun in Cenla!
MayFest, winner of the Louey Award for Festival of the Year, with live music, food and fun is back in historic downtown Leesville on the first weekend in May. MayFest brings together homemade food and artisan crafts from throughout the greater region. Folks gather on the courthouse lawn to dance the night away to amazing musicians. During the day, artists and craftspeople display their talents along the streets as kids participate in a variety of hands-on activities from the Armadillo Stampede to the Rotary Club’s Chalk-A-Block, where the sidewalks become every kid’s canvas!
MayFest opens at 4:00pm on Friday, May 5th, on Third Street at the courthouse with a live performance by Julian Primeaux. Louisiana Scramble takes the stage at 5:15pm, followed by Old Man Band at 6:30pm and Abigayle Holt & The Boot Leg Revival at 7:45pm. Glen Templeton rounds out the first night’s entertainment starting at 9:00pm.
From starting your day with a delicious Kiwanis Pancake, to letting out your inner child (or actual child) to create a chalk masterpiece, to shopping for that perfect something from vendors from throughout the region, and dining on all that festival food, there’s plenty to do when you’re not singing with your favorite band on Saturday!
The Leesville Lions Club annual pancake breakfast includes a short stack (6) of pancakes with your choice of bacon or sausage, with milk or juice. MayFest goers can purchase tickets for their meal from any Lions Club member, or at MayFest. Breakfast is served from 7:00am until the pancakes run out at the Historic Courthouse in downtown Leesville. The Lions collectively boast at least 200 years of flapjack flipping experience and guarantee their pancakes to be the best served within a half-mile of the courthouse. The club began selling pancakes more than 40 years ago as a way of raising money for its premiere service project, the Louisiana Lions Camp for Crippled Children.
The camp, located in Anacoco, just five miles north of Leesville, provides unique summer camp opportunities for children throughout the state who, because of their medical conditions, would not otherwise be able to participate in summer camp. Leesville Lions have been supporting the camp for more than 50 years. So, look for the tents and picnic tables, and there you’ll find the purple-and-gold clad Lions flipping jacks.
The MayFest opening ceremony will begin at 9:00am on Saturday, followed by the sounds of gospel music from three outstanding choirs starting at 10:00am. The music doesn’t stop as the day continues with Dave Duplissey & Uptown Jazz, Loosey Ann, One Trick Pony, and Mark Newman throughout the day. Johnny Earthquake and the Moondogs heat up the evening before Lucas Lagneaux & the Roadshow take the stage at 7:30pm. Rockin’ Dopsie, Jr. & the Zydeco Twisters bring Mayfest to a rockin’ end, starting at 9:00pm. Come throughout the day for all the fun!
While at MayFest, be sure to check out ClayFest 2023 at Gallery One Ellleven, located at 111 3rd Street, showcasing ceramic artists from across the south, showing and selling their one-of-a-kind handmade clay pottery works, including some made from Vernon Parish clay!
So, bring your lawn chairs and join in on the courthouse lawn for two free days of family fun in Louisiana’s Legend Country, offering live music, handmade treasures, local arts, children’s activities, and, of course, great food! Vendor applications and information are available on the MayFest website LouisianaLegendCountry.com/MayFest or by calling the Vernon Parish Tourism Commission at (337) 238-0783.
Ready! Set! Fête! AlexRiverFête, celebrating culture, community, and collaboration is back and better than ever, May 4th through 6th in Downtown Alexandria. Fête means “an elaborate festival, party, or celebration,” and that’s just what you will find in this three-day festival set along the banks of the iconic Red River. RiverFête brings thousands of people together for great music, food, and fun! The fun kicks off on Thursday at 4:00pm.
AlexRiverFête 2023 begins with Dinner on the Bricks, a tradition built on—you guessed it—the brick streets of Downtown Alexandria, that includes dinner, drinks, and live entertainment. Plan to dine on the bricks opening night, on Third Street as locally owned restaurants and caterers showcase the best of their menus. Admission is free, but individual menu prices vary.
The Alexandria Museum of Art will be shining during the AlexRiverFête Illuminated Procession! You won’t want to miss this one! On Thursday, April 20th at 6:00pm, AMoA will host a free Community Luminary Workshop. At the all-ages workshop, participants will create a variety of luminaries that will be showcased on the streets of downtown Alexandria as part of the Illuminated Procession. This year, in addition to the usual favorite parasols and illuminated hats, participants will create lovely luminaries from recycled items in the spirit of the current AMoA Environmental Impact II exhibition. Everyone is welcome! For more information or to volunteer for the procession, please contact Cindy Blair at email@example.com.
The Arts Council of Central Louisiana is again partnering with the City of Alexandria to bring ArtFête to AlexRiverFête! The art vendors are the glue between each RiverFête event in the Cultural Arts District! Sidewalks, green spaces, and the alleys come alive as local artists demonstrate and sell their works of art, including handmade jewelry, original paintings, sculpture, pottery, woodwork, children’s clothing, natural bath products, home décor, creative goods and more! ArtFête festivities begin Friday, May 5th, from 4:00pm to 9:00pm, and continue all day Saturday, May 6th, from 10:00am to 10:00pm. ArtFête is free and open to the public. Vendor spaces are still available. Please contact Amanda Gauthier at (318) 484-4475 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more ArtFête info. Local artists and crafters with handcrafted, original work, may be eligible for a booth spot in IndieFête. The fees for these booths are sponsored by a third party, so there is no cost. ArtFête officials want to encourage our artists to apply for eligibility! If you are not accepted by IndieFete, artists are absolutely encouraged to still register for ArtFête ‘23 as planned.
Speaking of IndieFête, it’s back in its original format with its original cast and crew! Indie is a self-described “showcase of local talent that falls outside the mainstream, a showcase of talent that might otherwise be overlooked. Everyone is a rockstar at Indie!” The Spirit of Indie is within the great local artists, musicians, performers, trendsetters, and humans of all colors, ages, sizes, and stripes, looking for an opportunity to showcase their talent, skills, creativity, and passions without the burden of a vendor fee. “Everyone gets a chance at Indie” continues to be the Indie rallying cry. For festival goers, be sure to stop by Indie Village to shop an amazing and eclectic selection of locally crafted goods while enjoying live music on the Indie Village Stage from local artists, both emerging and well known! Your support nurtures these creative souls and allows IndieFête to showcase Cenla’s amazing local talent.
Indie Village will again be located in the area of 4th and Desoto Streets near Tamp & Grind. Indie Vendors are chosen in a selection process that includes an assessment of whether the artists, their work, food, or products are created outside the mainstream, independently produced, and meet the culture of the Indie community. Visit IndieFête on Facebook @Indiefete for a 2023 vendor application form or call (318) 386-3383 for more information.
Indulge your nostalgia for the open road of days gone by at this year’s AlexRiverFête as the Classic Car Fête returns on Saturday, May 6th. The show will once again feature the best classic cars from across Central Louisiana on display. Registration is free and will begin at 9:00am. Space is limited, so if you’re looking to show off your wheels, plan to arrive early. Awards will be announced at a 4:30pm ceremony in categories including “Mayor’s Choice”, “Best Truck”, and “Favorite Rat Rod”. There will also be door prizes and a $100 cash prize drawing for registered car owners! Like Hot Wheels come to life, Classic Car Fête is sure to ignite the excitement of your inner motor head.
Cenla’s grill masters will be cookin’ up a good time as Que’in on the Red is back as part of RiverFête! This BBQ competition was a longstanding Cenla tradition, and RiverFête organizers couldn’t be more excited to bring it back. The competition will be held at the Alexandria Amphitheater starting with load-in at 8:00am on Friday, May 5th. The grills will fire up as bragging rights and a whole lot of prize money are on the line. This year’s categories include Whole Hog, Shoulder, and Rib. First through third place prizes will be awarded a trophy in each category, along with some serious cash! Third place winners take home $1,000, second place earning $1,500, and first place cashing in $2,500! Que’in also features the “Anything But” category, where entries will include, you guessed it, anything but the three main categories. First through third place winners will receive bragging rights and an official Que’in on the Red trophy. Officials are looking for BBQ teams big or small, so come one, come all! Registration is $100 for the first official category and $50 for each additional in the prize winning competition. Entry for the “Anything But” Contest is $25.00. All entries include an official Que’in on the Red apron and must be received or postmarked by April 21st.
Speaking of great food, RiverFête will feature delicious dining options throughout the festival. From sweet to spicy, grilled to fried, lemonade to icy libations, Food Truck Alley will have something for everyone, so be sure to arrive hungry! Grab a bite to eat then beat the heat in the AlexRiverFête Beer Garden (ages 21+ only) on the way to hear RiverFête’s always exceptional live entertainment.
AlexRiverFête is known for pleasing the crowds with musical talent from Central Louisiana as well as national performers, and this year will be no exception! The festival opens Thursday, May 4th, and Friday, May 5th, at 4:00pm, and Saturday, May 6th, at 10:00am before wrapping up that night at 10:00pm. Learn more about the festival and live entertainment lineup at alexriverfete.com.
Whether you Fête or Fest—or better yet, both!—don’t miss these great opportunities to enjoy fun that’s not far with great food, live music, crafts and creations right here at home in Cenla.