Friday, November 14, 2014

No “Fat City Fest” For Me, Thank You



The inaugural Fat City Festival is this Saturday and, even if I wasn’t going out of town, I would not be partaking.

My distaste for the Fat City Fest is unusual, given that I normally enjoy the spirit of Louisiana’s many varied church and community festivals.

If you live in Louisiana, I’m sure you have your favorite festival. Whether it’s the Greek Festival in New Orleans, the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, the Duck Festival in Gueydon, the Des Allemonds Catfish Festival, the Morgan City Shrimp & Petroleum Festival (truly an odd combination), or any of the church festivals like the recent St. Rita Pecan Festival or the St. Clement of Rome Oyster Festival, in Louisiana there truly is a festival for everything and everyone.

My personal favorite is the annual Giant Omelette Celebration in Abbeville. If you’ve never seen 5,000+ eggs, 50 pounds of onions, 75 bell peppers, 52 pounds of butter, 15 pounds of crawfish tails and various other ingredients mixed together and cooked in a giant skillet in a town square and then served to thousands of people, you really need to put it on your bucket list for next year.

Sadly, as much as I respect the history and character of Fat City, the good and the bad, the Fat City Festival will never be on my to-do list.

No, if the Fat City Festival were truly to celebrate Fat City, I would welcome it.

But the Fat City that was will never be again and, if you think that’s a good thing, you’re sadly mistaken.

Just as the French Quarter has its supporters and critics, so too did Fat City. And, just like the French Quarter, Fat City was either famous or infamous.

Whether you enjoy the history and character that Fat City was, or you feel that Fat City was a cesspool, you must admit that Fat City was ‘something’. Fat City had ‘something’. Unlike the homogenized urban planned space that is being thrust upon us by politicians and their contributors who are in search of more dollars and more power.

And, the Fat City Fest isn’t even being put on by people who are involved or invested in Fat City.

The Festival is sponsored by The Jefferson Chamber Young Professionals. On the web site promoting the Fest, it says “This festival will showcase the heart of Fat City and the changes that have been made over the years.”

What a bunch of crap.

Did I mention that there will be live music at the Fat City Fest?

If that sounds odd to you, it's because live music has been banned from Fat City for the past few years.

I guess, when you make the rules, you can change the rules whenever you feel like it. 

Included in the Festival are food trucks (which were outlawed in Jefferson Parish in 2007 and only brought back to Fat City this year at the behest of Councilwoman Cynthia Sheng for another fake festival), and a host of other food vendors who aren’t part of the Fat City landscape or history.

Food vendors include Lager’s, which is outside of the Fat City footprint as defined by Sheng; Hardee’s, which doesn’t have a location on the East Bank let alone in Fat City; and Mellow Mushroom, again outside of Fat City but owned by the former Chairman of the Jefferson Chamber.

Other vendors and sponsors include 1st Lake Properties (owned by the largest political contributor in Jefferson Parish), which was conveniently omitted from the Fat City Rezoning Ordinance pushed through by Sheng in 2010. The Rezoning, done under the guise of "redevelopment" and "crime abatement", drove out dozens of businesses from Fat City (including some that featured live music) and caused over 500 people to lose their jobs. No crime emanates from high-density apartment complexes right Councilwoman Sheng?

And, it wasn't just bars and strip clubs that were forced out by Sheng's onerous rezoning ordinance. Convenience stores, restaurants, a bakery, and numerous other businesses were also caught in Sheng's crosshairs in her zeal to create a legacy.

Also a sponsor is the Chateau Golf & Country Club, run by Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni’s wife and, obviously, never a part of “the heart of Fat City”. The Jefferson Chamber endorsed Mike Yenni in both of his Mayoral campaigns and heavily pushed Yenni's 2030 Plan, so perhaps this is quid pro quo for the Chamber's support of Yenni.

Yenni's political consultant, Greg Buisson, is also a sponsor. Why is a political consultant sponsoring a neighborhood festival? Just follow the money (and endorsements).

Other sponsors include Cigar Factory New Orleans with locations on Decatur and Bourbon Streets in the French Quarter (again, not a part of Fat City’s rich history);  and Microsoft. Yes, that Microsoft – the computer giant that wasn’t even a glint in Bill Gates’ eye when Fat City was in its heyday.

There will also be a couple of Etsy craft vendors selling their trinkets. 

What do any of these businesses have to do with “showcasing the heart of Fat City”?

Absolutely nothing, but their sponsorship dollars will surely make it into the Jefferson Chamber’s coffers.

And, since the Jefferson Chamber was one of the groups behind the destruction of Fat City’s “heart”, that’s pathetic but, this is Jefferson Parish after all.

Did Fat City need to be cleaned up? Without a doubt.

Did it need to be homogenized and have all of its character removed and changed into an ordinary neighborhood like every other neighborhood in suburban America? No, sorry Councilwoman Sheng.

So, if you’re going to the Fat City Fest, enjoy - but count me out.

I’m going to save my time and money for the REAL festivals that actually celebrate something in Louisiana that we can be proud of.  Tearing down the institution that was Fat City, trampling on individual’s property rights, forcing dozens of businesses to close and hundreds to lose their jobs while protecting the elite of Jefferson Parish and enriching your friends and allies isn’t something that I think we should celebrate.

By the way, Saturday is also the Rayne Frog Festival.

Maybe I’ll see you there.

Hey, at least frogs are cute and when was the last time you saw a frog race?

4 comments:

  1. While you are entitled to your own opinion, a lot of this information is either untrue or lacking of the whole story - allow me to enlighten you. First, I want to start with your assumption that sponsorship dollars "will surely make it to Jefferson Chambers coffers." Most of the sponsorship dollars are not dollars at all, but donations of services. For example, Greg Buisson himself is not a sponsor. However, Buisson Creative Strategies is. What did they put up for sponsorship, you ask? Designing and printing graphics for posters,flyers and all types of digital media as well as assist with media contacts. Also, the Jefferson Chamber of Young Professionals in a non-profit organization comprised of motivated people in the 20s-30s wanting to become more involved in their community. Any money that is gained from the festival will be put into a fund to assist in growing next year's festival. The JPYP and Friends of Fat City have been working together to create this event. I could go on and on about the sponsors and what and how they have contributed, but I have other issues to address.

    On your rant about foreign businesses - Drago's, which is a staple, legendary restaurant in Fat City is a heavy sponsor and supporter of the festival and changes in the area. Tommy Cvitanovich, the owner of Drago's, was asked about Fat City Fest and was quoted on nola.com saying, "It's part of that energy that's growing not only in Fat City, but in the whole New Orleans area. There's a lot of young professional people moving in. ... This is the wave of the future for us." Also, while you mentioned the businesses participating that are not a part of Fat City, you failed to disclose the Fat City businesses that are or have donated to the cause - allow me: Ohana, Corazon, Boom Boom's Bar, Pat's Pub, Drago's, Oracle, Wig World, Akrira Sushi, Korea House, Sound of Worship, and Fleurty Girl. Mellow Mushroom, Laegars, and Microsoft are all withing a 5 mile radius of the area, but they don't need justification to participate because Fat City welcomes everyone.

    You say Fat City Fest had "something" and I have to argue that it still does, only that something isn't a bunch of strip joints, it's potential. It's revitalization. It's character development and more importantly, it's economic development. JEDCO, the Jefferson Chamber and the Jefferson Young Professionals, along with Councilwoman Sheng and other members, are working to bring out the light that once made the area shine. So while you may head to the Rayne Frog Festival, just know the Fat City Fest will not croak; it will be around next year too. Maybe by then you will come around and see for yourself what an exciting difference these organizations have made.

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    Replies
    1. Sorry Maid but the powers that be didn't "welcome" the existing businesses, landlords and stakeholders when Councilwoman Sheng pushed through the Fat City Rezoning Ordinance. Where was their "welcome"?

      Thanks for bringing up "Friends of Fat City", another group controlled by the Jeff Chamber without any Fat City stakeholders. I appreciate you reinforcing my point.

      And, just so we're clear, I'm within a "5 mile radius" of Fat City. However, I won't be for long. Enjoy your day and please, stop drinking the kool-aid.

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  2. Definitely have to agree with Walt on this issue. In the beginning phases of the rejuvenation of Fat City Councilwoman Sheng and the rest of the Parish Council approached the business owners, specifically the bars, about joining in and meeting certain requirements in an effort to breath life back into the area. These efforts included security cameras, property improvements, etc. They did not include early closing hours or the elimination of live music which includes DJs. These items were not mentioned until the final plans were revealed to the general public, completely taking those owners who were looking forward to a bright future by surprise and effectively signaling a death knell for most of those businesses.

    While it is true Fat City needed to be cleaned up let's not forget that the area received very little help from Jefferson Parish outside of paid services over it's long history. In the past Fat City produced large amounts of income in tax revenue for the Parish that were never used in the area. There were few sidewalks, irregular lighting and poor code enforcement of both business and rental properties. It was not until financial funding became available and an opening for chances to make large profits did the Parish take interest in Fat City. While it may be a coincidence that most of the businesses that have closed were located near the heart (most important for development) of the area I have my doubts. Then again, that's just me.
    In closing I would like to ask one question. Where is Rayne?

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  3. Wow, this is such an amazing post! I loved reading through this. You know dance parties are my favorite and I attend so many dance parties at the local party city locations NY but I eat very less in parties as I am a fitness freak.

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