Eighth Annual Oak Street Po-Boy Fest set to satisfy Sunday

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The crowds at Po Boy Fest 2013. This year aims to improve on the already stellar showings of the past.

Colin Mahar, Staff Reporter

The eighth annual Oak Street Po-Boy Fest will be held from 10 a.m until 6.p.m. Sunday and will feature chefs from all over the city delivering their takes on the classic New Orleans sandwich. The event will take place on six blocks of Oak Street between Eagle Street and South Carrollton Avenue. In addition to providing delicious food, the festival will host live music from an array of beloved New Orleans acts such as the Rebirth Brass Band, Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes and Big Sam’s Funky Nation, among many others.

The venue will feature two outdoor main stages, one at the corner of Eagle and Oak streets and the other at the corner of Leonidas and Willow streets, plus two indoor stages located inside the Maple Leaf Bar and the Oak Wine Bar. These stages will provide free live music for the duration of the festival. In addition to Po-Boy Fest, Family Fest, a free affiliated event, will take place at the St. Andrews Episcopal School on the corner of Zimple Street and Carrollton Avenue, which is geared toward children and their parents.

Adam Ross, the Po-Boy Fest sponsorship coordinator, said he cannot wait for this year’s event.

“A lot of people ask why should I go out and fight the crowds at Po-Boy Fest instead of [just going to] my favorite po’boy shop,” Ross said. “The reason is that the chefs go out of their way to make one of a kind po’boys that are creative, delicious and only available at Po-Boy Fest, and that is just a such a rare opportunity.”

Chefs are encouraged to provide both full-sized and half-sized options so that attendees get a chance to enjoy as many of the rich and eccentric po’boy options as they possibly can.

The po’boy sandwich was originally created in New Orleans sometime in the early 20th century when streetcar drivers went on strike. Local restaurants and sandwich makers created simple sandwiches made out of whatever materials were on hand to give to the “poor boys,” thus giving a name to the innovative sandwich.

“I believe the first po’boy was a french-fried po’boy with roast beef debris on top,” Ross said.

The sandwich evolved into a staple of New Orleans cuisine and to this day every New Orleanian has a favorite choice.

The Po-Boy Fest started in 2007 when the Oak Street Business and Residence Board received support from the Main Street Coalition, who operated as grant-funding organization aimed at boosting New Orleans business in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

“The po’boy is a uniquely New Orleans food, and it’s something we’re very proud of,” Ross said. “We’d like to honor that humble New Orleans sandwich by giving it its own holiday and letting it shine the best way we know how, and that’s to party in the streets and let the chefs create gourmet po’boys for us all to enjoy.”