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Drive-In Food and Music Festival Aims to Boost New Orleans’s Key Industries — and Spirits

Farmstand Live hopes to help rebuild the city’s post-COVID-19 cultural economy through entertainment, hospitality, and farming

A platter from Addis Nola, one of the restaurants participating in Farmstand Live
Official/Farmstand Live

When Emily Vanlandingham was trying to dream up a post-pandemic business idea, powered by her new master’s degree in food business from the Culinary Institute of America, she had an epiphany.

“I thought about my perfect day,” said the single mom, chef, and entrepreneur. “It’s being at a music festival, listening to great New Orleans music outside, and eating amazing food. So that’s what I decided to go for.”

The result of her inspiration is two test events, debuting on April 24 and May 1. Dubbed Farmstand Live, the events aim to help rebuild New Orleans’s post-COVID-19 cultural economy through three critical industries: entertainment, hospitality, and farming.

The idea is to create a new outdoor platform for live music, dining, and fun — like if tailgating had a baby with Jazz Fest — in the parking lot of the Shrine on Airline, the Jefferson Parish arena that housed New Orleans’s former Minor League Baseball team the New Orleans Babycakes.

Set up in the parking lot at 6000 Airline Drive, the concert event pairs three New Orleans bands — Dumpstaphunk, Smoke N Bones, and Soul Brass on April 24, and Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, George Porter Jr. and the Runnin’ Pardners, and Honey Island Swamp Band on May 1 — with boxed dinners from restaurants and makers including Justine, Cochon Butcher, NOLA Charcuterie, La Petite Grocery, and Addis Nola. Ticket holders also receive a $20 produce box from Crescent City Farmers Market, which can be donated to Second Harvest Food bank.

For Mia Freiberger-Devillier, partner at Justine and La Petite Grocery, signing on with Farmstand Live was a no-brainer. ”We’ve been eager to get back on the event circuit in a safe and collaborative way,” she said. “Kudos to Emily for developing this incredible experience that will help support New Orleans’s rebirth.”

Tickets start at $120 per person for general admission, including the show, boxed dinner, and produce. The rain or shine event allows up to eight people and one vehicle per three parking spaces: one for chairs, one for the car, and one for social distancing. There’s incentive to fill up the car or have friends ride share to meet up — every person after two ticket holders is discounted by $10 to $60, depending on the number of partiers.

There’s a cash bar, managed by Laura Bellucci, a local bartender who last ran the absinthe themed Belle Epoque restaurant on Bourbon Street. Each party signs up a designated driver who receives free non-alcoholic beverages all night.

“We aren’t policing anybody,” said Vanlandingham. “It’s a liability thing — same reason we say no outside beverages for insurance purposes. It’s a way to limit how intoxicated individuals can get.” Jefferson police will have a security presence at the events.

Gates open at 4 p.m. and all vehicles have to have it in park by 6 p.m. with spots first come, first snagged (there are VIP options for the closest rows in addition to general admission). The event is ADA accessible and there will be porta-potties on site, festival style.

All meals have to be preordered at time of ticket purchase, with food served at 6:30 p.m. and the show running between 7 and 11 p.m. Two servers will work each section, shuttling food and drinks via golf cart.

The menus will feature a vegetarian option, two other dishes, and a charcuterie box, “because meat and cheese is fun to eat and share,” said Vanlandingham. Cochon Butcher is packing a muffaletta with its famous smoked meats and serving pasta salad, Addis Nola is offering a vegetarian combo with spicy red lentil, yellow split peas, collards with braised cabbage, and rice. Justine will offer a croque-monsieur with Chisesi ham and Swiss on brioche and Parisian potato salad on the side. Bywater Bakery and Dee’s Deelightful Desserts offer an optional sweet add-on.

Besides specialty cocktails, there will be options for buckets of local beer, carafes of wine, and batch cocktails.

Vanlandingham acknowledges that the $120 ticket might cause some sticker shock. “But think about how much you spent on that last big concert or dinner and drinks out. Covering the price of entertainment is a big chunk and we want to pay fairly — the musicians have been out of work for so long. It’s been a tough year for everybody in all areas of hospitality.”

“We’ll see what happens,” Vanlandingham said. “If these two test events sell out and are successful, we would love to keep planning more. The long-term goal is to create a permanent outdoor music venue for year-round entertainment.” And she wants to take local musicians, hospitality workers, farmers, and restaurants along for the ride.

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