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VOL. 132 | NO. 80 | Friday, April 21, 2017

Porter-Leath's Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival Returns Sunday

BY MICHAEL WADDELL, Special to The Daily News

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Known to some as the unofficial start of the spring festival season in Memphis, the 25th annual Stinson’s Industrial Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival benefiting Porter-Leath takes place Sunday, April 23, from 11 a.m. through 7 p.m. at Wagner Place, between Union Avenue and Beale Street.

Porter-Leath’s Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival broke attendance and fundraising records in 2016.

(Submitted)

Rajun Cajun is the largest crawfish festival in the Mid-South (and the largest one-day crawfish festival outside of the state of Louisiana), featuring 16,000 pounds of fresh Louisiana crawfish.

“The festival continues to grow after 25 years, and that’s what makes it so special. It just gets more fun every year,” said Rob Hughes, development director at Porter-Leath. “At Porter-Leath, we’re growing and spending more and more each year helping children and families who need our services and prayers.”

Rajun Cajun broke fundraising and attendance records last year, with 40,000 attendees and $150,000 in donations. Hughes hopes to see up to 45,000 attendees this year.

Admission is free, and all proceeds from food and beverage sales, arts & crafts, the VIP tent, and the gumbo cook-off go back to supporting programs and services that fulfill Porter-Leath’s mission of empowering local at-risk children and their families to achieve healthy, optimal and independent lifestyles.

Rajun Cajun is Porter-Leath’s largest fundraiser and helps provide free services for 12,000 local children and families. Earlier this year, the school opened its new 32,000-square-foot Early Childhood Academy in South Memphis.

“That’s another reason it’s an awesome event because it helps us support things like the academy that are desperately needed locally and nationally,” Hughes said. “So here we are peddling crawfish to make it happen.”

The eight tons of fresh crawfish are driven straight from the source in Louisiana up to the fest.

“Sure we go through a lot of crawfish, but we’ve got something for everybody. So if you don’t like crawfish and want something to eat, we have a wide variety of food vendors with grilled corn, corn dogs, Gulf shrimp, Central BBQ, oyster po’boys, and much, much more.”

Live music on three stages will feature Memphis bands, including Grammy winner Marcella + Her Lovers, Freeworld, David Kurtz Band, ShotGunBillys, Black Oak Arkansas and Every Mother’s Nightmare.

The Beale Street Stage will host crawfish bobbing, eating and racing contests, and there will be age-appropriate games for kids, including a spin-to-win prize wheel at the Orion Federal Credit Union Kid’s Area on Riverside Drive.

The annual Cash Saver Gumbo Cook-Off will feature 24 gumbo teams competing to claim this year’s skillet trophy and cash prizes. For a VIP experience with unlimited crawfish and drinks from noon until 5 p.m., festival-goers can purchase BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee’s Community Trust Swamp Tent tickets in advance for $100 per person and $175 per couple.

And if it rains or if people are in a hurry and need some food to go, the Confluent Strategies Crawfish To-Go station will be located at the corner of Riverside Drive and Union.

“You don’t even have to get of your car,” said Hughes. “We’ll have people set up in rain gear, if necessary, and they will sell you crawfish right through your window.”

This year, festival organizers have added an extra hour so they will be open until 7 p.m. instead of 6 p.m.

“When we’ve closed at 6 p.m. in the past, people really didn’t want to go home, but we had to vacate,” he said. “So we said let’s add the extra hour and keep the party going.”

Event sponsors this year include AS Barboro, Mahaffey Tent & Event Rentals, Henry Turley Co., Cumulus Media, WMC Action News 5, MemphisSound.com Entertainment, Paulsen Printing, Transactions First, Pepsi, Kelley & Associates Advertising, Riverfront Development Corp. and AutoZone.

“We open up the weekend before Memphis in May and help get everybody primed to have a great spring in Memphis and lead into a great summer,” Hughes said.

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