Cajun/Zydeco Music Festival brings in dancing crowds

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Preston - posted Mon., Jun. 13, 2011
Hanna Kallwass, of Belmont, Mass., and Roger Fudge, of Providence, R.I., cut a rug to a slow blues number at Strawberry Park's annual Cajun and Zydeco Music Festival. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
Hanna Kallwass, of Belmont, Mass., and Roger Fudge, of Providence, R.I., cut a rug to a slow blues number at Strawberry Park's annual Cajun and Zydeco Music Festival. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

Drizzly weather notwithstanding, a little slice of Louisiana made a brief appearance at Preston’s Strawberry Park Resort Campground June 9-12.

The park’s annual Cajun and Zydeco Music Festival drew 14 bands playing an assortment of French Creole-inflected music and Western swing to an appreciative audience from all over the northeast.

This is the event’s 15th year, and the 2011 “Blast from the Bayou” attracted such musicians as Geno Delafose and French Rockin’ Boogie, the Sweetback Sisters, Planet Zydeco, and Ryan Brunet and Les Malfecteurs for four days of music and dancing.

The dance floor was crowded to capacity with couples in motion. Some had taken advantage of the campground’s dance lessons, picking up the tricks of zydeco, swing or mamou two-step during the weekend.

Others, like Andy Turrett, of Northampton, Mass., and Stella Sylva, of New York, were old hands at the steps.
“We’ve been pretty much dancing the whole time except for a few breaks,” said Turrett, who’s been attending the festival for the last 10 years. “The music’s good. There’s a lot of bands we don’t get to see up here very much because they’re from Louisiana.”

Connecticut’s unpredictable weather creates changes in dancing conditions, he said. In high heat, like the festival saw Thursday, “the floor gets a little slower. There’s a little more friction than you’d like.”

“But now we’re dancing faster,” added Sylva, referring to Saturday’s chilly drizzle. “We have to warm up, so we compensate.”

Kelly Martens, of Branford, had two dance partners – her 2-and-a-half-year-old twins, Tessa and Jacob. The trio swirled around and around outside the dance pavilion, oblivious to the misty sprinkle of rain.

“My husband and I actually met zydeco dancing,” Martens said.

Besides the music, festival-goers could sample further, more literal tastes of the bayou. Vendors were selling such delicacies as crawfish bread, grits, beignets (a specialty doughnut, sold in New Orleans’ French Market) and alligator sausage. Ainsley Buckner, who ran one of the food stands, explained that the sausage was 100-percent alligator tail meat in a pork casing.

Other Louisiana-inspired food offerings included crepes, pralines, several varieties of pie (including black bottom and pecan) and Andouille sausage, made with chunks of ham.

As Cedric Watson and Bijou Creole played a slow, bluesy number on the stage, Hanna Kallwass and Roger Fudge created their own private dance floor behind the backdrop. Away from the crowds of dancers, the couple performed slow, sinuous twirls, slides and dips to the rhythm.

Turrett said that the best part of the festival often happens after the formal “show” ends.

“After the music stops, in the camping area people stay up late jamming,” he said. “Some people I saw today had gotten maybe an hour or so of sleep.”


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