A brand new event, Taste of New Orleans, kicks off on Sept. 1 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Celebrating the sounds and foods of the Big Easy, more than 2,000 people are expected to take part in the inaugural event, with music provided by Louisiana favorites, Cowboy Mouth, as well as local combos Theo & the Zydeco Patrol, Billy Lee & the Swamp Critters and The Bayou Brothers. Organized by Kevin Hellman of SDS Events USA, a Taste of New Orleans ticket includes the festival as well as track admission, program and tip sheet and five New Orleans-themed drink or beer tasters.
Though known as a promoter of such local events as The San Diego Music Awards, Hellman was actually born in New Orleans and returns regularly, making this festival a natural extension of his other projects.
“I have a deep connection to that city,” he explained. It was that connection that led to the creation of this festival.
“I’m part of the San Diego LSU Alumni group, and we do an annual event in the spring. I was contacted by the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club about doing something similar to that in the fall to coincide with racing season, and we came up with the concept for the ‘Taste.’”
What is it about New Orleans’ art and culture that resonates with folks around the world?
“It's the people of New Orleans that make the scene,” Hellman said. “They’re very resilient, very much wanting to always have a good time. NOLA has a great music and artist community. Once you visit NOLA, it gets inside of you. It makes for a ton of fun when you see NOLA artists perform.”
While Hellman loves the music of New Orleans when it comes to a favorite part of this event, for him its no contest. “Everything is a highlight, really, but the food is a standout,” he said. “I love the food. Where else can you get gumbo, jambalaya, etouffee, shrimp platters, beignets and more, all in one place outside of Louisiana? I can't wait to take a bite out of a fried shrimp po’boy.
“And then, of course, the music is going to be fantastic. It all works together. Not to mention, you can enjoy the horse races all afternoon, and it's a beautiful outdoor setting in Del Mar. It’s going to be fun.”
For Hellman, the choice of headliner was easy. “Cowboy Mouth is one of my favorite NOLA bands,” he said. “I first saw them at the Pacific Beach Block Party back in 1995, but more importantly, they recently performed at the LSU Alumni of San Diego Crawfish Boil event at the SDCCU Stadium, and they just killed it.”
The crowd response provided the impetus for a quick return.
“I thought it would be great to have them back in town again to follow up on that show. People just raved about seeing them. Of course, they are just the tip of the iceberg. All of the bands we have are a lot of fun and great at what they do.”
Though the first edition of Taste of New Orleans has yet to happen at the time of writing, Hellman is already thinking ahead. “Hopefully, if all goes well, this becomes an annual event that I will be asked to curate for years to come,” he said. “The Del Mar team is great to work with, and I'm really looking forward to a long history working with them, making this event bigger and bigger each year.”
Taste of New Orleans: 12-6 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 1 at The Del Mar Fairgrounds, 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd. All Ages. $25. 14 and under free. For more information, visit dmtc.com/calendar/detail/NewOrleans.