We had planned to go tubing with John Schneider near his super-cool studio outside Baton Rouge Saturday, but the river was way too high and a downpour flooded the streets of New Orleans trapping many of us in our neighborhoods. After the rain passed, we instead headed to the 6th annual New Orleans Oyster Festival in Woldenberg Park. I’ve been every year and the fest keeps getting bigger and better – even adding an additional stage for food demonstrations and live music. We stopped for a few songs from local favorites, TBC Brass Band.
Like most of our festivals there were food booths, a section for local artists (most of whom had oyster-inspired pieces of art, housewares and jewelry) and the whole shebang was meant to give back to the local community, this time through several non-profits aimed at coastal restoration. Oyster shell recycling bins even sat next to trash cans to help build coastal reefs – so even throwing away your trash properly helped the coastline.
Our first Gulf treat was fried oysters on a grit cake topped with crawfish sauce ($8). I loved the kernels of corn in the grit cake – a nice touch from the folks at Cafe Reconcile, a non-profit restaurant for training at-risk youths for work in the service industry. Next up was a decadent cochon de lait poboy topped with BBQ shrimp ($8) from Katie’s Restaurant. I loved sopping the abundant spicy butter with the bread. We were delighted to find Nola Snow‘s snoball booth. They provided our post-wedding-parade- snoballs a year ago so we got a wedding cake flavored one for old times’ sake ($4).
Then we headed to the main stage for The Royal Southern Brotherhood featuring Cyril Neville and special guest Corey Henry on trombone. Maybe it was the earlier storm or maybe it was because our city’s busy season is ending, but the crowd felt more like the far-more-local crowds our festivals had even just a few years back. I’ll admit it felt nice to sway along with mud-spattered ankles and rain-ruined hair without feeling like a zoo-animal-like tourist attraction.
Sunday, the rains returned closing the fest early so we made up for lost time and met with John Schneider at Coop’s for some local grub. It was clear there were few tourists around when we found no line and were seated right away.
John and I first met while I was riding with Quentin Tarantino in the Orpheus parade, Mardi Gras 2014. Since then, we’ve worked together twice, most recently when he directed me in a script he wrote called Like Son. Before that, we played husband and wife in Heartland, an upcoming drama. John’s son Chasen played our son in the movie and it was wonderful reconnecting with Chasen and meeting his friend, Justified‘s Duke Davis Roberts.
Later we were joined by another kind of John’s “children,” Jaclyn Betham, his TV daughter from The Have and Have Nots. Her husband, Toran Caudell is best known as the voice of Arnold from Hey Arnold! But honestly – I knew none of this until about 5 minutes before we all left and I asked how Jaclyn knew John. Working on a TV or film set often feels like finding a new family. People work long hours sharing unique bonding experiences and passing time with personal stories and private jokes.
On Heartland with John and Chasen, I considered it quite a treat to work with an actual family. Also joining us for lunch was one of the film’s producers, Louisiana native Alicia Allain, who having also produced Like Son has become part of our sprawling Hollywood South film family.
Though I’m sorry the Oyster Fest had to lose out to rain, it was nice spending time with “family” over plates of jambalaya and red beans with rice.