Friday-Sunday, Feb. 25-27
Festival Plaza, Veterans Memorial Boulevard Neutral ground at Lakeside Shopping Center, 3300 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, www.experiencejefferson.com
British pop-star Natasha Bedingfield, Tito Jackson and Honor Society headline the fourth installment of Family Gras. The three-day event features live music at one spot along the Metairie parade route, offering fans a mix of Mardi Gras and festival attractions.
"I personally am looking forward to Tito Jackson, who plays early Jackson songs in the second half of his show," says Violet Peters, CEO of the Jefferson Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Of course, nearly everyone we talk to is interested in seeing Natasha Bedingfield, Little Big Town and Neon Trees. Those artists have exploded in popularity, and we are fortunate to host them at Family Gras."
Jefferson Parish organizers have built the festival as a hub of Carnival activity, offering entertainment before, during and after parades roll. Friday, Feb. 25, features Northshore fiddling prodigy Amanda Shaw and country music headliner Little Big Town. Bedingfield and Jackson perform Saturday, Feb. 26, along with a diverse lineup including Memphis' rock trio Ingram Hill, alt-rocker Sister Hazel, the Tex-Mex grooves of the Iguanas, the updated New Orleans rock and R&B of the Creole String Beans and country singer David Worley. Sunday, Feb. 27, concludes with indie rockers Neon Trees, soul singer Eli "Paperboy" Reed and the True Loves, Jonas Records-signees Honor Society and Cowboy Mouth.
The eclectic lineup is meant to offer something for everyone.
"We literally go from a group like Honor Society that toured with the Jonas Brothers to a group like Tito Jackson who will appeal to those children's grandparents," says producer Greg Buisson.
The scheduling complements the parade schedule. Buisson says there will be enough time between sets for people to make their way to the parade route.
"We want the main event to be, always, the Mardi Gras parade," he says. "We want the whole purpose to be giving people a chance to experience Carnival and the art of costume, and then enjoy the concerts."
Family Gras has an array of activities, and costuming is encouraged, with Friday dedicated to sports themes and Sunday designated for traditional Carnival garb. An art market showcases more than 50 artists and craftspeople. The Jester's Kids Tent offers face painting and storytelling. There also is a food area with local fare such as crawfish pasta, muffulettas, pizza and more. Admission to the festival area is free, but a VIP pass offers access to bathrooms and a reserved viewing area throughout Family Gras.
The inaugural Family Gras was in 2007. Attendance at the last Family Gras in 2009 reached 80,000, Buisson says. The event was canceled last year to avoid competing with the Super Bowl.
"Weather permitting we would like to see 100,000 visitors [this year]," Buisson says.