Big fall food festivals return: See what’s new with Beignet Fest, Fried Chicken Fest

NEW ORLEANS (NOLA WEEKEND) - Big food festivals, like the National Fried Chicken Fest and Beignet Fest, return to give foodies a taste of Louisiana food staples this fall season. One of those festivals includes the first-ever NOLA Coffee Festival aiming to restore the city’s claim as “Coffee Capital of America.”

The inaugural NOLA Coffee Festival joins the lineup of big food events brewing this fall. Kevin Richards, co-founder of the Nola coffee festival, says he wants to celebrate this bold tradition steeped in the crescent city’s culture.

“ So there’s a tremendous community of roasters and baristas and coffee shop owners that really thrive right in front of our eyes, but we don’t necessarily pause to celebrate this great coffee community that we have,” Richards said.

Dozens of regional roasters will fill the Morial Convention Center for two days of panel discussions, classes and demos. Coffee lovers can also pour in to find their perfect cup.

“What we want people to do is come and learn and experience and explore and decide for themselves what they actually like more than what they’ve been drinking for most of their life,” Richards said.

Kelly Schultz with New Orleans and Company says the Coffee Fest is one of several new events fueling tourism in the city this fall.

“We’re involved in making sure that they choose New Orleans and that people are coming and registering to attend those events so that they can become hopefully annual traditions,” Schutz said.

Beignet Fest, which celebrates another local food staple, returns to City Park’s Festival Grounds. On this year’s menu, nearly 50 beignet creations include old favorites along with new sweet and savory options.

“So we’ve got a bunch of wonderful stuff out here for everybody to try,” Beignet Fest founder Sherwood Collins said.

Collins says he doesn’t want to leave anyone out of enjoying the food or the fun. That’s why organizers are adding new vegan and gluten-free dishes. Plus, they’re expanding the kids village to support children of all needs.

“We’ll have a bunch of sensory-friendly options available, whether it’s a silent disco or some other hands-on occupational therapy type activities,” Collins said.

Organizers of the Fried Chicken Festival say to prepare for their biggest year yet and a larger footprint along the New Orleans Lakefront.

“We’re going to add about a football field of length. So we’ll be expanding further up Lakeshore Drive closer to the Seabrook Bridge,” said Cleveland Spears III, Fried Chicken Fest producer.

Spears says more space means more ways to tempt taste buds, including a new stage featuring celebrity chefs.

“And on that stage, you’ll see chefs and culinary creators from across the country talking about what it’s like to be in the culinary industry, doing cooking demos,” Spears said.

Plus, a new crop of cooks will help spice up the menu at the two-day fest.

“While we’re so pleased with how last year went, one thing we heard over and over and we saw in real time was the lines,” Spears said. “And so with that additional footprint is also going to allow us to do is expanding number of restaurants.”

The inaugural NOLA Coffee Fest runs Sept. 15 and Sept. 16 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center followed by Beignet Fest at New Orleans City Park Festival Grounds Sept. 23. This year’s National Fried Chicken Fest runs from Sept. 30 to Oct. 1 at the New Orleans Lakefront.

Shan Bailey

Shan Bailey

Shan Bailey is the digital content producer and on-air personality for FOX 8 Nola Weekend. Shan is a creative storyteller who is passionate about creating compelling content that connects with audiences.