LONG BEACH - Celebrating crawfish Cajun style, more than 1,000 people came out to the 17th Annual Crawfish Festival on Saturday and Sunday at Rainbow Lagoon.
Chef Que Purdy and her staff served beignets, fried doughnuts with a thin crispy shell smothered in powdered sugar. Staff members sang improvised tunes about beignets as they kneaded dough or heaped powdered sugar over finished pastries.
“Real Cajun, real love, that’s what it’s all about,” Purdy said. “You gotta have real love when you’re cooking Cajun food. You know we have fun with your food so that way you don’t have to know whether it’s bad or not. Because if it’s like this, it’s always gotta be good."
Servers at a food booth nearby spilled the secret to Cajun food goodness.
“It’s all in the spices,” said one worker as he and a partner emptied seafood from gigantic steel vats.
“It’ll clear your sinuses,” said Kevin Justice.
Even though Kevin Pierre, a Louisiana transplant who lives in Redondo Beach, cleaned his plate of crawfish, he sensed something was not quite right.
Pierre, in his purple and gold hat, was hoping that the Long Beach event would give him a bit more comfort. He hoped it would remind him of home with the street bands, the Mardi Gras parade, the bayou, the catfish, and strangers waving hello. He missed the feeling of Grandma and her presence in the cooking and family togetherness.
“It’s the feeling that everything is family," he said. "I don’t know how to explain it. It is what it is.”
A procession of masked dancers wearing funeral attire and sporting parasols with fringes crowded onto the parquet floor and danced to live Dixieland music.
Clotte Allochuku, 58, of Sherman Oaks, and her husband, J.C. Albritton, came to the event to hear musician Leroy Thomas.
“I see people really love their culture,” said Allochuku, who was wearing a cherry red Mardi Gras hat covered in yellow and green spikes. “You don’t want other people to water down your culture. You want to keep it alive, especially for the next generation.”
A dance floor beckoned.
But Albritton was satisfied tapping his toe to the Dixieland band playing nearby. He had a bad back and wasn't about to get up and move around.
His wife wouldn’t let him off that easy.
“I’m gonna pull him up out of this chair,” said Allochuku. “I’m gonna drag him out there!”