Crawfish Fest crowds come for the food and the music



Posted: Jun. 2, 2019 12:01 am Updated: Jun. 2, 2019 12:46 am


FRANKFORD — As if in unison, colorful beads swung from the corner of pop-up tents as attendees swayed to the sounds of Louisiana’s Cajun and blues music Saturday at the Sussex County Fairgrounds during the 30th annual Michael Arnone’s Crawfish Fest.

This year’s festival, which began Friday and will continue through 7 tonight, includes nearly two dozen world-class music acts on three stages, about 1,500 campers, more than 10,000 people and about 12,000 pounds of crawfish and jambalaya.

While the fest draws an ecclectic group of people each year — children splashed around in inflatable swimming pools, 30-somethings sipped on beers and danced to the music as older attendees preferred relaxing in their folding chairs — the consensus was clear that the annual event has built a reputation for its great food and soulful music.

A family of four seated in the shade of a tree was enjoying a large container of boiled crawfish and jambalaya.

“We come for the crawfish, but really the food, the music, everything is great,” said Rick Sealy, of Union, who has attended the event the last three years. “We will probably get some po-boys next and more crawfish later.”

“This is closest you’ll get to New Orleans,” said Makea Stuart, also of Union, as she peeled off the shell of the popular Southern delicacy to snag the meat inside. “Actually, I am planning on going (to New Orleans) this year.”

As bubbles wafted through the air and attendees bustled up and down the main concourse to various concession stands — one even serving grilled alligator sausage — Gerry and Linda Houghtaling, of Frankford, were seated in the lawn chairs tapping their fingers to the Cajun sounds of Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience.

“Our daughter lives in Louisiana, so we’ve come to appreciate Cajun music and even attended the New Orleans Jazzfest once,” Linda Houghtaling said.

The couple planned to eat some crawfish before taking in the soulful sounds of R&B star Aaron Neville, who was anticipated to take center stage Saturday night.

The Crawfish Fest began in 1989 when festival founder and namesake Michael Arnone, a Louisiana native working in New Jersey, grew homesick and threw a party for friends featuring a few pounds of boiled crawfish, jambalaya and two bands. Thirty years later, the fest has become a staple at the fairgrounds for those near and far to get a taste of real, New Orleans-style music and food.

This year’s talent also includes the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, a true New Orleans-based group, before tonight’s headliner, the up-and-coming Marcus King Band, a blues and Southern rock band, takes the main stage at 5 p.m.

The festival will continue throughout the day today with gates opening at 10:30 a.m. and closing at 7 p.m.

Admission if $45 at the gate. Parking is free. Pets are not permitted.

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Lori Comstock can also be reached on Twitter: @LoriComstockNJH, on Facebook: or by phone: 973-383-1194.


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