*Editor’s Note: While there are no travel restrictions to New Orleans due to the Covid-19, out of an abundance of caution and consideration for staff, vendors, performers, and guests, Hogs for the Cause has decided to cancel the event. Please check the event website for details and updated information.
Shortly after Mardi Gras season ends, New Orleans picks right back up into high gear with the next season. For everyone else, it’s springtime; but, for us in New Orleans, it’s festival season.
Near the start of spring festival season is Hogs for the Cause on the weekend of March 27-28. It is arguably one of the best and most important of the local festivals, because it includes a very significant cause – in addition to the food and music that makes up the formula for a well-rounded New Orleans festival. The annual event raises money to for families with children who are fighting pediatric brain cancer.
As if the cause wasn’t reason enough to attend, the event is a huge success as evidenced by their steadfast growth over the past 12 years. The event includes Friday’s Bacon Night and Saturday’s competition, which features 90 teams vying for the top spot in a number of categories. But, you won’t just get the meat sweats from attending Hogs, you’ll also sweat while dancing to over 20 bands, covering genres that range from indie rock to funk, and everything in between. Best of all, tickets start at just $30, and children under 10 attend for free.
Sounds daunting? Read on to get the insider info on the event for how to take on Hogs like an expert.
1. First, and foremost, it’s about the cause.
The funds raised during Hogs for the Cause (and throughout the year by the charity) support grants that are provided to families with children fighting brain cancer. This helps families cover expenses like relocation, travel, and housing – things that typically aren’t covered by insurance, but can cause a financial burden to families that are already carrying enough stress. The charity also supports Hogs House, a housing facility located on the Children’s Hospital campus that provides families with a place to stay, while also offering a place where both children and families can socialize and receive support from each other.
The event first started 12 years ago, when founders organized a pig roast at the Fly for a family friend whose child was battling pediatric brain cancer. The first year was such a success that the event continued at the Fly before realizing the impact that they could make on other families. Now, Hogs is held at the festival grounds outside the UNO Lakefront Arena, and has given over 1,000 direct grants to families in need.
2. It’s a great place to discover new music, like real life Spotify.
With over 20 bands playing across three different stages, there is music for everyone’s taste. The combination of local and national bands range in genres from funk, jam, alternative country, rock, R&B, and roots rock. The lineup is unique, and varies so much from other local festivals that it has become a great place to see favorite acts from outside New Orleans, and even discover new bands.
This year’s lineup is no exception, and includes: Old Crow Medicine Show, Robert Randolph and the Family Band feat. Soul Rebels and Taz Niederauer, Yola, Sweet Crude, and many more. Check out the full lineup and schedule here.
3. The real parties start on Bacon Night.
It’s called Bacon Night, so that should be enough reason to attend Friday night’s festivities, but the fun really starts after the bacon fest. While the main event is Saturday, there is still plenty of eating to do on Friday night, with teams offering samples of their own take on bacon. Whether it is prepared sweet, savory, or even in its truest form, celebrating the cured meat should always be a Friday night option.
After the bands stop playing around 11 p.m., the real parties begin. Since the teams are up all night preparing their dishes for Saturday’s main event, they host some epic parties late into the night/early into the morning. There’s a cover charge (for the cause, of course) to get into the parties, but it includes drinks, cover bands, and DJs. This is a great way to continue to contribute to the cause, burn off the bacon, and further support and cheer on the teams. Insider tip: Boar’s Nest and Fleur de Que always deliver.
4. Treat yourself to VIP.
I hate to sound like a snob, but if you can, splurge for the VIP status. It includes a loaded wristband, access to the VIP tent that includes open bar with specialty drinks (maybe a frozen jack and diet?), and a place to sit in the shade right by the stage. Need we say more?
5. Maximize your eating experience.
With 90 teams offering unique BBQ samples, it can be overwhelming. Don’t try to be too ambitious on the first round, because this is a marathon, not a sprint. If you want to maximize your eating capacity to get the best out of the day, follow some simple tips. Here’s some cook off math, if you will.
- Do your research and define your priorities and secondary options. Always leave room for some unexpected food options.
- Cover the preliminary lap first, before getting seconds of your favorites. It may be tempting, but it’s a risky bet to concentrate all your efforts on one option.
- Don’t waste calories on carbs and unnecessary grains during your preliminary run through. You’ll lose momentum early in the day.
- Work up an appetite with dancing in between tastings.
- Some booths are flashier and bigger than others, but don’t judge a team by its booth. Definitely visit and support them all, and follow your taste buds.
- Bring zip lock bags or pants with plenty of pockets to smuggle the leftovers.
- Bring the kids too. The festival itself is family friendly. It’s a great way to spend the day outdoors listening to music, eating food, and maybe enjoying a few libations, while bonding with the fam. That’s how NOLA kids are raised, after all. But, if that doesn’t assure you, stop by the kid area, equipped with bounce houses and activities to keep them contained for enough time to sneak in the bacon s’more that you really didn’t want to share with them anyway.