New downtown Baton Rouge Festival set to start in 2017

Nov 8, 2016

Nov 8, 2016 — A new arts and music festival celebrating Baton Rouge’s economic and ecological connection to the Mississippi River will be held in 2017.

Ebb and Flow will be held April 1-2 along the downtown levee, Renee Chatelain, president and chief executive officer of the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge, told the Downtown Development District Board of Commissioners Tuesday.

Commissioners also heard an update on plans to reorganize downtown parking, the selection of three companies to manage downtown parking and a report on new businesses. 

The festival is a partnership between the arts council, the Louisiana Art & Science Museum and the Raising Cane’s River Center. It will be officially announced in early 2017, but Chatelain said the festival will be an “inclusive event” featuring national musical and performance artists, along with temporary sculpture installations along the levee. The plan is to have the event stretching from downtown to The Water Institute of the Gulf.

“With the coming of the Water Institute, it’s so important for us to identify with the Mississippi River and our powerful place on it,” she said.

Ebb and Flow will kick off Louisiana’s spring festival season and will be held a week before the Baton Rouge Blues Festival.

The goal is to grow Ebb and Flow to where it becomes an internationally juried design festival. There’s a chance that there could be some sculptures exhibited on barges floating in the river, although Chatelain said there isn’t currently a place to moor the vessels. However, once the city dock is expanded to accommodate the Viking River Cruise ships that will start calling on Baton Rouge in 2017, displaying sculptures on barges will be possible.

Ebb and Flow will take the place of the arts council’s Fest For All, traditionally held in April. “But this will be so different than Fest For All,” she said.
In other business, the DDD heard an updated report on efforts to reorganize downtown parking from John Fregonese, the Portland, Oregon-based consultant who is working with the city-parish on the issue.

Fregonese said while downtown Baton Rouge has made tremendous strides, the parking situation in the area was “more in a 2000, 1990 or 1965 mode.”
“Coin-operated parking meters, that’s like having a VHS tape player in your house,” he said.

The city-parish announced Tuesday it selected Lanier Parking SolutionsSMG Worldwide Entertainment and The Aaron Group to manage downtown parking as the result of a bid process. Atlanta-based Lanier manages more than 400 parking facilities across the country, while SMG operates the River Center. The Metro Council is set to vote on a contract with the companies at its December meeting.

Fregonese said with professional management, downtown parking should be made easier for visitors because there will be improved guidance that shows where spaces are available and modern meters that accept debit cards or phone payments. And the city should benefit from increased revenue. “Parking is something that should pay for itself,” he said. “You’re losing gobs of money because it’s not being managed well.”