That Crawfish of Louisiana comfortably opens fest season in Syracuse

A taste of Louisiana in Syracuse's Clinton Square.

A taste of Louisiana in Syracuse’s Clinton Square.

Five months worth of available dancing, drinking and eating in downtown Syracuse’s Clinton Square kicked off yesterday afternoon.

The spring gray broke for a stretch, my dear wife Karen and I took off our jackets, the good friends were chatty, and my very favorite Syracuse band was on the stage.

I enjoyed the Crawfish Festival.

True ‘dat.

The brain behind Syracuse's Operation Southern Comfort/Northern Comfort, Norm Andrzezewski.

The brain behind Syracuse’s Operation Southern Comfort/Northern Comfort, Norm Andrzejewski.

This one-day party that brings a taste of Louisiana to upstate New York is for a cause far greater than raising the spirits of Central New York residents by annually opening the figurative door to the warm weather festival season that brings music and food booths to the square in the middle of downtown Syracuse.

It’s a fundraiser that raises cash for a very important project.

Operation Southern Comfort was started in 2006 by Norm Andrzejewski of Liverpool. The graduate of New Orleans university Tulane began bringing Central New Yorkers there to help in the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. Several years ago, that effort begat Operation Northern Comfort, with similar goals: Volunteers find projects in this area where their collective efforts can help change lives. Last fall, the organizations merged.

I shook Norm’s hand and reintroduced myself as a fellow who interviewed him for a newspaper story shortly after Katrina. His eyes shined and he thanked me for the piece in the Auburn Citizen. I politely told him that it had been for the Syracuse daily, and he still smiled and gave me a hearty hello. I was glad that his effort had received much media attention in this region over the years.

Evan Eggert of Syracuse doesn't really want to wear his Crawfish hat, but mom Julie cooperates for the photo opp.

Evan Eggert of Syracuse doesn’t really want to wear his Crawfish hat, but mom Julie cooperates for the photo opp.

Throughout the day, volunteers strolled the square, selling 50-50 raffle tickets to raise money for the organization.

A booth was set up in which a lucky putter could win huge flat screen TVs in turn for their donations. That also promoted an upcoming Salt Potato Open golf fund-raiser.

Probably the most popular donation items were bright red crawfish hats for five bucks and Mardi Gras style beads for a buck.

I gladly purchased a hat for our strollered friend Evan Eggert. We’d stopped to say hello to the little guy and his mom, Julie, our friend who used to work with us at the big daily.

Evan put the hat on right up to the time when I wanted to take his picture, then he’d pull it off. Repeatedly.

Happy little game for me and the little guy, who will be 3 in a month.

I love his wily smile.

Karen wore her beads without hesitation.

The hero of the day, cooked in a pot. The might crawfish.

The hero of the day, cooked in a pot. The mighty crawfish.

Lines were long to buy plates of the title guy of the event, the blazing red crawfish.

Piled high and served with potatoes and corn on the cob, the “swamp bug” gave off an aroma that reminded me of the manner in which they cooked the king of culinary choice back in my Maryland, oh, Maryland days, the crab.

Yes, Clinton Square was alive with the scent of Old Bay seasoning.

I do not like crabs. I do not like Old Bay seasoning. (In Maryland, my friends used to eat potato chips flavored with Old Bay. I stuck with barbecue or sour cream and onion or good, old regular.)

So I passed on the crawfish. So did Karen. We had just eaten breakfast with friends up in Central Square, anyway.

Los Blancos are, from left to right, Mark Nanni, Colin Aberdeen, Mark Tffault, and Steven T. Winston.

Los Blancos are, from left to right, Mark Nanni, Colin Aberdeen, Mark Tffault, and Steven T. Winston.

As soon as Los Blancos took the stage to prep for the second set of the afternoon, I jumped the step up and leaned in to say hello to my longtime friends, musicians who have been laying down swinging roots Americana music appropriate for the Crawfish Festival, Syracuse and beyond for a couple of decades now.

Dudes can play.

I’ve been wishing more national fame upon them for a long time now. When they tour, they proudly wear the Syracuse label. When national bands with their friends play Syracuse, they call Los Blancos up to share the stage.

Here’s the click to their audio/video page so you can get in on the action. They’ve got plenty of albums out. They’re on YouTube. Of course they were part of my Music Notes Performance series when I worked for the big daily.

I bobbed near the stage for a couple of songs before I got back into the middle of the crowd with Karen, my good friend Dave Kaspar and his girlfriend Sue Taylor. I would estimate that Dave and I have witnessed 10,000 Los Blancos songs together live.

Yes, there were fest characters willing to stop for photos.

Yes, there were fest characters willing to stop for photos.

Norm and the rest of the fest organizers knew how to do things right.

The food vendors also were serving shrimp in case you wanted something in a shell, but were reluctant to go for the bright red little daddy of the day.

The beer tent had domestic for fair prices. Karen and I grabbed a Bud Light, which were five bucks each. They also were pouring craft beers from the tap for a buck or two more, if your tastes were searching something more refined.

Our friend Bob Bird and his wife Lynne opted for the craft, and we helped carry a couple back to them and their two friends to chat.

We watched as characters in costumes fit for New Orleans paraded around the grounds.

Plenty of fest-goers got the hint and took advantage for photo opportunities.

Photo copped.

Photo copped.

I was not close enough to hear whether it was the policeman or the Crawfish who asked for the picture to be taken above.

Actually, I am pretty sure it was an event organizer who asked the friendly Syracuse officers to pause for a shot for the fest files.

It was a nice moment.

Arts, crafts, lawn, downtown and the American flag. Nice scene, Syracuse, N.Y.

Arts, crafts, lawn, downtown and the American flag. Pretty scene, Syracuse, N.Y.

Karen and I also took the time to stroll through the dozen or so craft tents artists and artisans had set up in three rows on the lawn portion of Clinton Square.

We didn’t buy, but it was fun to browse.

The Crawfish and Norm share a moment.

The Crawfish and Norm share some quiet.

Of course, everybody needs a break.

Even the Crawfish and busy organizer Norm. She loses her head, but quietly. He accepts the moment.

Is it outdoor festival season yet where you live? Do you like going to festivals? What’s your favorite fest and why?

43 thoughts on “That Crawfish of Louisiana comfortably opens fest season in Syracuse

  1. I’m with you and Karen: Crawfish = Yucky! Crawfish Festival = Fun! What festivals do we have here? Well, the Strawberry Festival of course! Right next door to me is Plant City, the official strawberry capital of the world! ๐Ÿ™‚ (However, my FAVORITE outdoor festival is the Renaissance Festival up near you in Tuxedo, NY.)


    • Oh, yes, the Ren Fest. I shorten the name so I do not have to spell it, Rachel. It is famous for folks walking around gnawing on whole turkey legs, I do believe! I have never been but I wrote about it for the big daily, and I may gave to go this summer to take pictures for this very blog! Thanks for the reminder!

      And strawberries sure smell and taste betters than mud bugs!!


      • Strawberries taste better than turkey legs, too! And for the record, when you go to the Ren Fest, you can wear your tights and Karen can dress like a wench. There are lots of far goers who go in costume and it is so much fun!


      • LOL! No tights? Well, perhaps after you visit, she will WANT to dress like a wench and you will be begging her not to! (I know every time I go, I want a wench’s dress, though I don’t know what use I’d have for it anywhere else.) And she may want you in tights as well! Of course, you could always use those again when you play Superman.


      • LOL! Okay, well, costumes excluded, the Ren Fest is neat because they don’t have things that they wouldn’t have had back then. Some of the food vendors do use electricity to cook, but they try to serve it like it was way back. (Except they usually do have soda, which of course wasn’t around.) They have “rides” that are powered by muscular men and not motors. They of course have jousting shows and living chessboards, skits and shows, and stuff like that. I’ve been to several around the country and the one in Tuxedo was the only one that actually had a photo station where they would dress you up in costume and take your photo, which is really fun and of course the camera was hidden in a wooden box. And they sell stuff like from back then. It’s just a fun day when you go, and when you’re back, THEN you can tell me if you might want to change your mind on the costume thing. ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. Dang, I missed it! Looks like it was a great time, too. Will do better next year, and I’m looking forward to all the fun in the city this summer! Great post, Mark–thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚


  3. What a neat organization. We went to a crawfish boil last weekend. It’s amazing how RED they are, no? It looks like you really care for your little nook of the world, Mark. And Los Blancos are a bunch of white guys LOL.


    • Great name for the band, huh? The red of the crawfish does jump right out at you, doesn’t it? And yes, I got to like Clinton Square a little bit during the 29 years when the office of the big daily flanked one of the long four corners of the square, Kerbey.


    • Downtown Syracuse has some impressive architecture throughout, Rachel. The spot where the festival was held is where the old Erie Canal ran through the city. That allowed barges to run the width of New York State for shipping purposes. Some important buildings from those days remain.


  4. The sounds, sights and smells of the Louisiana Fest were awesome! I am not sure if I do or don’t like crawfish, but I would have snagged some shrimp! I am hoping that you will have a great next 5 months and wish I could have attended this ‘kick off party!’ Smiles, Robin


  5. We are knee deep in crawfish season here in Houston, Mark. Everyone’s backyard turns into a weekend party.

    I tend to think the crawfish are too much work to eat, but I love the other additions made to the pot. My favs the mushroom, artichoke, garlic, and corn and potatoes, of course.

    Evan is adorable! The hat, too. I’d wear it even before having a few beers, which one needs to help cut the heat of the entire experience. What a fun day!!


  6. Looks like fun Mark. I think I would take a pass on the crispy critters too, but mainly because shrimp are the only shellfish I like. Crawdads are too much work and too little to show for it, and if I’m going to wear my food in public, it might as well be scrambled eggs, LOL. Our season will kick off next weekend with the Bar-B-Que Fest down at the river, and then Friday After Five will be at the river every Friday after five all summer, featuring live bands and lots of food. There will be lots of music, fun, crafts, Que, burgoo, beer Garten, and other kinds of food next weekend, and of course, there will be rain, although I haven’t seen the official forecast yet. It just goes without saying that when there’s a festival at the river, there’s always rain. I haven’t gone for several years because the population of the town quadruples on that weekend, and there isn’t room to move, especially in my motorized chair. I’ll just run over to Old Hickory and get some take out Que and have my own party here.


    • Enjoy your Que party, Angie.

      I do think your city planners ought to take that title seriously and design a spot that ensures safe haven for folks in motorized chairs to enjoy fests, too.


      • Our city “planners” don’t have a clue how to plan anything Mark, unless it’s how to line their pockets. Before the days in the chair I worked security down there, and God help anyone who needed help, because the crowds are so thick they mob people who are down. Not a place for children or the elderly or disabled .


  7. i love outdoor festivals of all kinds, and i love this post. what a great festival, a nod to the little crustaceans, and all for a good cause, and i actually do love old bay and anything in the shellfish family, and good music, and great costumes/mascots, so this is right up my alley. thanks for sharing )


    • I love shrimp of all varieties and lobster mostly from the tail.

      And the music of Los Blancos, obviously.

      As for costumes and mascots, for stories for the big daily I in the past:

      Dressed up as Otto the Orange for a Syracuse basketball game.

      Dressed up as a werewolf for a Haunted House.

      Wore a kilt and walked around downtown Syracuse at lunchtime during the release week of “Braveheart.”

      Stories and photos are floating around somewhere, Beth.

      Thanks for taking a moment from our baseball wager to comment about this important benefit fest cause.


  8. You passed on the freaking crawfish!!??
    Freaking heretic!
    I can’t believe this!
    I bet you one thing, when i hit the festival down in Lafayette, La I’ll be elbow deep in Crawdads, red taters, corn on the cob and some blue crab!
    Les bon tempes rouller!
    oh…by the way.
    My form excuse….
    .I am reading your posts but I can’t prove it.
    I am fighting with my WordPress thingee because none of my likes are going thru on anything!
    I get the little pop-up box but no content or acknowledgement of success.
    I am in Michigan now, just north of Detroit.
    I have a lot of free time today and will spend it visiting most everyone’s blogs.
    I am in farm country, BFE, and there are lots of geese and some turkeys too.
    I hope this comment goes thru….

    Liked by 1 person

    • I got the comment, Trey. Thankee.

      I know how frustrating the WP thing can be sometimes. Last night my Reader started showing posts from 3 months ago. And I remembered them. Golly!

      No, no crawfish for this Met.

      Have fun when you’re up to yer ears in the little buggers.


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