Guest Author - Chris Curtis
Every festival has its own charm that uniquely defines it. Gator by the Bay has several unique attractions to make for an experience to be remembered. Gator by the Bay is located at Spanish Springs Landing Park in San Diego, CA over Mother's Day weekend each year. The park overlooks the marina on Harbor Island Drive at the northern end of the bay. The place to stay is the Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina adjacent to the park. Many of the rooms in the Lanai section of the hotel overlook the park and are very convenient for a short respite during a long festival day. The festival organizers negotiate a reduced festival rate each year.
The festival focuses on the music of New Orleans with three dance tents and two other staging areas where music is played continuously from 11:00am to 7:00pm on Saturday and Sunday. One dance tent is dedicated to continuous dance lessons throughout the weekend. The festival features a bevy of local talent and brings in several top Louisiana bands each year. This year featured Brian Jack who has recently been named the house band for the festival and is expected to return each year, Curly Taylor whose unique bluesy sound distinguishes his band as a top draw, and the Grammy nominated Lisa Haley with her distinctive Celtic fusion Zydeco sound.
The festival kicked off with a dance on Friday night from 7:00pm to 11:00pm featuring an hour dance lesson from 7:00 – 8:00pm covering the basics of both Cajun and Zydeco dance steps. The Ballroom at the Sheraton Marina was packed with Zydeco dance enthusiasts for the start of the festivities. Curley Taylor opened and was HOT. His band has a mix of talented musicians who rocked us for the 3 hour set. Saturday evening also featured a dance in the Sheraton ballroom starting at 8:00pm with Brian Jack rocking the house. After a full day of dancing at the festival grounds, dancers still rose to the occasion with Brian's non-stop signature syncopation.
The festival grounds were laid out well throughout Spanish Springs Landing with a dance stage at either end of the park and craft and food vendors, of which there were plenty of both, were central between the two dance tents. The Rad Hatter was clearly the craft vendor of choice with hundreds of patrons adorned with a self-decorated paper bag hat, lots of creativity going on there. The food vendor of choice was clearly the crawfish vendor. Mitch had brought 8,000 lbs of crawfish up from Opelousas, Louisiana; it is unlikely he brought any back with him.
The weather was perfect and the crowds thick with attendance. Also centrally located was the Les Bon Temps dance and social club of San Diego featuring a dance tent with continuous dance lessons offered throughout the weekend, leaving no excuse for not getting out there and dancing. Two other stages completed the bill with nonstop workshops allowing patrons to have a closer look at the artists.
The festival was well attended offering plenty of music, food, crafts, dancing and beautiful signature San Diego perfect weather. Mark your calendars for Mother's Day weekend each year. There is no better place to be than at Gator by the Bay.
Click to view pictures of the festival.