Audubon Soul Fest: Great Food, Great Music

Audubon Soul Fest 2020 via Facebook

If you found yourself stuck in traffic on Magazine Street this weekend, it was for good reason. On Saturday and Sunday, March 7th through 8th, the Audubon Zoo celebrated its 17th annual Soul Fest that celebrates African American Culture. Centered around Audubon Zoo’s Capital One stage, between the Audubon Tea Room and the Sea Lion Exhibit, New Orleans locals filled the field with fold-out chairs and blankets with their entire families to enjoy the festival. The stage hosted jazz and soul musical guests such as The New Orleans Horns Show and Dance Band, Sierra Green & The Soul Machine, and The Nayo Jones Experience. In between musical performances, guests could visit a number of organization tables, gift vendors, and especially food vendors, if they were willing to wait in line as it seemed EVERYONE was excited to try out the various offerings of New Orleans’ Soul Food from vendors like Cafe’ Dauphine, Down Home Creole Cookin’, and Palmer’s Cuisine. 

“I love the fest! The zoo is a beautiful place,” says Dinah Campbell, a long time Soul Festival attendee. “My family has a food vendor and we’ve been here since day one, Palmer’s Cuisine, and we have the jerk chicken, the Caribbean fish, the jambalaya, and the red beans and rice, and we’ve been in the festival since 2005 when it first started.” 

An obviously strong aspect of the Soul Fest is its focus on the New Orleans’ African American culture of the festival and its intertwining with the natural world. During the festival, the zoo remained open for its regular hours, allowing guests to take their own excursions to visit some of their favorite animals of the Audubon Zoo. “It’s a great place to come with family. You get to take advantage of going into the zoo, then when you walk around and look at the animals you can enjoy the festival where there’s great food, great activities, and wonderful organizations,” continues Campbell. 

Campbell wasn’t just attending the Soul Fest as a guest, or even with her family’s food vendors, but was running a table and recruiting new members for her organization The New Orleans Multicultural Tourism Network. “We try to showcase businesses that are multicultural, African American, Latino, Asian businesses and give them a chance to serve tourists coming in. The majority of the time, they’re directed to Bourbon St. or Canal St. Whether it be for a wedding, family reunion, or girls’ trip, if they want different services, they can find out about our merchants here and give businesses that are multicultural a chance to work with the tourists.”

Many other businesses and organizations like Dinah’s populated the edges of the festival grounds, but the real excitement was happening among the guests. Those who had initially staked their claim on the grass with fold-out chairs were now dancing with neighbors of every culture that New Orleans has to offer. Campbell is correct in the Audubon Zoo being such a perfect location for this kind of festival. Year-round, the  Audubon Institute shares with its guests the different animals of the world and their natural habitats. In turn, Soul Fest manages to show the animals what humans are like in their natural habitat of good music, good food, and even better company. 

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