by Kevin O'Neill
Recovery and rebuilding continues out in Gentilly. But this weekend, the neighborhood is havin' a party. Gentilly Fest returns for its fourth annual party to celebrate the racially diverse, historically middle class neighborhood. The free event runs from 11 a.m to 7 p.m. Saturday and noon till 6 p.m. Sunday at Pontchartrain Park Playground, located near the corner of Press and Prentiss drives, just off Leon C. Simon Blvd.
Gretchen Bradford, representative of Pontchartrain Park Neighborhood Association, says Gentilly Fest serves two purposes. It is meant “to bring awareness of what Gentilly has to offer," she said." We want big and small businesses to know Gentilly is a great place to do business.”
The festival’s second function is emotional. “It is a motivational event for our community," she said. "We’re down but we’re not out.”
Continuous live music for the event will be performed on a main stage and in a gospel tent. Doug E. Fresh, the original beatboxer and namesake of the contemporary dance sensation "the Dougie," headlines at 5 p.m. Saturday, while Kermit Ruffins headlines on Sunday at the same time.
Catering includes all the New Orleans essentials: crawfish bread, kocktail crab with boiled corn and potatoes, creole stuffed crabs, smothered okra and shrimp, boiled turkey necks, red beans and rice with basil chicken, fried eggplant with crawfish etouffee, and of course, snowballs.
The event's Kids Village is equipped with a variety of different entertainments to amuse children including: Nancy's Pony Rides, Two Cousins Face Painting, a NOFD fire truck, NOLA Church Plant's Imagination Playground.
A medical tent will provide medical screening with the assistance of Daughters of Charity Services of New Orleans, and a pediatrician will be present. Also in the medical tent an unorthodox healing method using African drummers will be available. AARP will be teaming up with a local bike company to provide information about maintaining bikes and commuting by bike in New Orleans. The partnership will give away bike kits to its first 50 visitors on Saturday.
Proceeds from the event benefit New Orleans police, fire, and EMS services for the Gentilly area. The event will also donate funds to the sports programs of Pontchartrain Park and Milne playgrounds and the Louis Armstrong summer jazz camp for kids.
No ice chests, outside food, or pets are allowed on the festival grounds. All day parking is available for $5.