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?