Fried Chicken Festival dishes out chicken for a cause

This past weekend, thousands of people headed to the French Quarter on a mission to consume copious amounts of delicious chicken and have a grand ol’ time absorbing all the experiences the city has to offer. 

Several New Orleans restaurants and even a few out-of-state vendors pitched their tents and began cookin’ up their best fried chicken for the second annual Fried Chicken Festival, held at Woldenberg Riverfront Park last Saturday and Sunday. Sponsored by Raising Cane’s, more than 160,000 people, including locals and out-of-towners, attended the festival during its two-day span. Admission was free, but vendors charged for their food.  

Cleveland Spears, Fried Chicken Festival founder and CEO of Spear’s Group, began producing this year’s festival shortly after last year’s, from raising money with sponsors to organizing vendors to sell chicken. This year, Spears also worked with various charities and organized for part of the proceeds of the festival to be put towards hurricane relief in communities in Houston and southern Florida.

Live music carried the upbeat mood throughout the weekend, with the festival’s headliner, Big Freedia, drawing in an enormous crowd Sunday night as she amped up the audience with New Orleans bounce music. Many other local artists performed throughout the weekend, mixing with the scenic view of the river and passing steamboats to create a truly unique New Orleans atmosphere. 

“If you look out at this audience that’s right in front of us right now, it’s very diverse, it very much represents New Orleans, it represents Louisiana, it represents America,” Spears said.

Spears’ goal in establishing the festival was to unite the community through a shared interest.

“Everyone loves fried chicken, it’s an everyman dish,” Spears said.  

Accompanying the chicken served at the festival was an abundance of sides: macaroni and cheese, waffles, cajun fries and a plethora of other options were paired up in large troughs alongside chicken tenders, chicken sandwiches, chicken nuggets and countless other forms of fried chicken. 

Desserts were also available. Orleagian SnowBalls from Atlanta parked its truck near the entrance of the festival, sure to catch visitors on their way in and out. Sucré, a New Orleans dessert shop, was also present.

Fried Chicken Fest was undoubtedly a success for all parties involved. Every chicken- and snowball-crazed fanatic left the event with a full stomach, thoroughly contented both by their gluttonous stupors and the knowledge they’d contributed to a meaningful cause. Between the food, charity and music, this year’s Fried Chicken Fest was not an event to miss.

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