The French Market’s 30th Annual Creole Tomato Festival is June 11 and 12, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the French Market, New Orleans
This June, The French Market New Orleans celebrates thirty years of producing a festival dedicated to the beloved Creole tomato. The festival serves as a “kick-off” to the Creole tomato season, which lasts all summer.
The festival is always held the second weekend in June, when the Creole tomato crop is set to be first-picked.
Typically, a tomato grown in Plaquemines or St. Bernard Parishes qualifies as a Creole tomato, and the two longtime growers and multigenerational farm families of Ben & Ben Becnel, Jr., and George’s Produce, operated by George Lafargue, are the primary sellers at the festival. They also sell other produce in season, canned goods and sauces, and dishes made from the Creole tomato.
The French Market Creole Tomato Festival began in 1986, when so many festivals in New Orleans were founded to draw locals back to the French Quarter, especially around and after the time of the 1984 World’s Fair.
Because the French Market is considered one of America’s longest continually operated open air markets, and is fondly remembered for the many produce, meat, and spice vendors that sold daily there, it is a perfect location for a festival celebrating and honoring local farmers and their goods.
Today, the open air French Market is home to many eateries that prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner; flea market vendors selling souvenirs, books, music, clothing, and jewelry; local arts and crafts vendors, and cart vendors selling everything from crepes to vegan baked goods. Each Wednesday, the Crescent City Farmers Market produces a fresh food market, with local farmers and fishermen selling seasonal items, as well as fresh baked goods and canned preserves.
The French Market Creole Tomato Festival continues to expand in its footprint and scope. Cooking demonstrations have always been a signature piece of the festival, with local chefs creating their favorite Creole tomato dishes to share with samples for the public. For the past five years, a Creole tomato eating contest for kids and adults has also been held at the cooking demonstration tent.
For the past two years, a “Best of the Fest” contest has been conducted to select the Tastiest, Healthiest, Most Traditional, and Most Creative food booth offerings at the festival, which continues to attract some of the cities’ best known restaurants and caterers.
The “Ripe and Ready Rally” kicks off the festival on Saturday June 11th with the “first bite of the season” followed by a secondline through festival grounds.
In recent years, a significant children’s area has been created, with interactive craft booth for kids, miniature golf, an outdoor foam playground provided by Playbuild, and live local kid-friendly music and workshops, plus facepainting, balloon art, and magic shows.
The live music stages have grown as well, with a new stage added to the grounds of the neighboring Old U.S. Mint. This year, the 30th annual festival will add an outdoor music stage to its newly adopted Crescent Park, a 1.4 mile, 20 acre urban linear park that connects the community and visitors to the Mississippi riverfront and “begins” just one block from the French Market.
Dutch Alley, where the festival had its start, remains a key location for the festival, as it connects the French Market District retail shops to the rest of the French Market District. Here, patrons will find a new feature to the 30th annual fest: a Bloody Mary Market, with 6-10 Bloody Mary offerings, an arts market hosted by Dutch Alley Artist’s Co-Op, and live music at the Dutch Alley Performance Pavilion.
Just behind Dutch Alley is the French Market operated Riverside Parking Lot, which spans 4+ blocks and provides hundreds of parking spots for festival goers. Patrons can also access the riverside RTA streetcar there, or walk along the River to access various points throughout the French Quarter.