There seems to be something magnetic for New Orleanians in the local festival. Of course, it has to be a quality affair, with lots of music, food and art. Fortunately, our city is robustly provisioned with all three. Once these are deployed in the right setting, people tend to flock. For evidence, see the Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo coming up this weekend.

The Boogaloo had unlikely and less-than-auspicious beginnings. It first came together along the banks of Bayou St. John in the spring of 2006 when the surrounding Mid-City area was still crawling back to life from Katrina and the levee failures. Jazz Fest had just marked its joyous post-Katrina return a few weeks earlier, but it was anyone’s guess how things would go for new neighborhood festival no one then knew about and one taking place in a neighborhood still in that limbo between outright ruin and budding recovery. Would a serious crowd really turn up?

They did indeed. That first Boogaloo packed that de facto park between Moss Street and Bayou St. John with revelers, with a music stage, with food booths and with activities. In the years since it has grown tremendously, and this weekend’s Boogaloo schedule now stretches over three days and has expanded with related events. 

For instance, on Saturday there’s now a bicycle pub crawl, which begins harrowingly early and takes in a few Mid-City watering holes before depositing its thoroughly warmed-up riders back at the Boogaloo (special note for anyone with a bicycle: the Metro Bicycle Coalition will hold its somewhat less rakish Bicycle Second Line that same morning, beginning and ending near the Boogaloo grounds). And there’s the Rubber Duck Derby, a race of toy ducks along the bayou to raise money for the Second Harvest Food Bank.

As from the start, the Boogaloo remains a free event and, of course, following the classic New Orleans festival mold, music is a big part of the affair. More than 30 bands, performers and DJs will take the festival’s three stages from Friday evening through Sunday, with acts from Jumpin’ Johnny Sansone, who is now promoting his fiercely good new blues album, to the acoustic, punky yet foot-driving “Russian mafia band” DeBauche to a collaboration between local jazz ladies Leah Chase (the singer, not the chef, her mother), Germaine Bazzle and Stephanie Jordan. 

The food is shaping up to be just as diverse, with Boswell’s Jamaican Cuisine, Woody’s Fish Tacos, the Cajun cooking of Brocato’s Eat Dat and the update Southern soul of Boucherie all represented.

New Orleanians will come out for good festivals just about anywhere in town they crop up, but the particular location the Boogaloo has chosen hasn’t hurt one bit. Staked along Bayou St. John, with the chance for cool breezes and the guarantee of attractive views, with people paddling by in all manner of flimsy watercraft, with beautiful homes around and the landmark dome of Holy Rosary church rising in the distance, it’s one of those sites of everyday magnificence in this city.