Cajun Food Fest, Wichita River Festival parting ways

The Cajun Food Fest that’s been a part of the Wichita River Festival for 26 years will probably happen this year — but it won’t be during the River Festival, which opens in a little more than a week.

Goodwill Industries, the group that always has put on the fundraising event, is planning to stage it on its own, sometime before the end of the year.

The group decided to leave the River Festival after learning that it would no longer be able to stage the event at its traditional spot on Kennedy Plaza. The River Festival is moving the main food court to an area on Douglas, just in front of Kennedy Plaza, and felt the two sets of food vendors would compete with each other too much, said Riverfest President Janet Wright. The festival offered Goodwill Industries the chance to move the Cajun Food Fest to the Waterwalk Pavilion area.

“We didn’t think it would work there,” said Goodwill’s Gayle Goetz. The Waterwalk Pavilion area is targeted at an after-work crowd, Goetz said, and the Cajun Food Fest is targeted at families.

Attendance at the Cajun Food Fest has fallen over the past several years, she said. Last year was fairly disastrous for the event. Just as it was about to begin, tornado sirens sounded in downtown Wichita, sending Cajun Food Fest-goers scrambling for cover. Goodwill donated much of the food to The Lord’s Diner the next day.

Goetz said that the group is about two weeks away from announcing a different date for the Cajun Food Fest, which always features red beans and sausage as well as other Cajun favorites. She couldn’t say yet whether it’d be staged on Kennedy Plaza or elsewhere.

Cajun food lovers still can find a fix at the festival this year, though. The Waterwalk Pavilion will feature a concert by The Mudbugs Cajun & Zydeco Band and catered food by Da Cajun Shak, including fried catfish, hushpuppies, gator bites, red beans and rice and bread pudding. That event will be at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 7.

The Wichita River Festival is scheduled for June 1-9.

Fat Tuesday food and fun in Wichita

The Mudbugs Cajun & Zydeco band rockin' Heroes last year.

Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday, and local restaurants are offering up all kinds of Cajun-ified fun.

One is Heroes, the Old Town sports bar that for the past four years has offered a Fat Tuesday party to end all Fat Tuesday parties. It features local Cajun and Zydeco band The Mudbugs plus Cajun food and drinks. (The Mudbugs’ drummer is my pal and Wichita Eagle photographer Jaime Green.) The band plays from 7 to 10 p.m., and Heroes welcomes crowds of all ages for this one. I’m bringing my Mudbuggin’ 6-year-old and a posse of her pals. All day long, Heroes will be serving chicken and sausage jambalaya, Southern catfish, red beans and rice and gumbo. They’ll also serve $3 hurricanes. Heroes is at 117 N. Mosley. For more information, call 316 264-4376.

Red Bean’s Bayou Grill, a Cajun restaurant at 7447 W. 21st St., also has plans for Tuesday. They’ll be passing out Mardis Gras beads to customers, plus serving oyster shots and beignets on Tuesday evening. For more information, call 316-721-4100.

Da Cajun Shak at 6249 E. 21st St. also plays to welcome Fat Tuesday revelers. The staff will be dressed up, the restaurant will be decorated and beads will be distributed. Reach Da Cajun Shak at 316-260-1486.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

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