1. The French Market's 30th Annual Creole Tomato Festival will be held June 11 and 12, 2016 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. with staggered closings of activities and stages: The children's activities and entertainment stage at the Mint and the Dutch Alley music stage close at 5:00 p.m.; Louisiana Cookin' culinary demo stage at the Farmers Market and Centennial Park at the Mint stages close at 6:00 p.m.; festival food booths on Barracks and the Crescent Park stage and activities at Mandeville Whart remain open until 7:00 p.m.

2. This year's festival spans four blocks of the French Market District, from Dutch Alley to Crescent Park. Click here for a festival map.

3. There will be four live music stages, with the festival's main music stage at Crescent Park, where there will also be food trucks, and an arts and crafts bazaar. Click here for the full music schedule.

4. A Ripe & Ready 5k Run will be held at 8:30 a.m. on the fest opening day Saturday June 11th, with runners beginning and ending at Crescent Park. Learn more about the route and registration here.

5. A Bloody Mary Market will be placed in Dutch Alley, featuring 10 distinct, original, Bloody Mary options in various regular and special sample sizes from local bars and restaurants.

6. In honor of the National Park Service's 100th anniversary year, the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park will host a Centennial Stage at the Old U.S. Mint, featuring park ranger musicians in concert, including the NPS Centennial Band, which has been touring the country this year as ambassadors of New Orleans music.

7. Yoga on the Lawn at the Mint will be held at 9:30 a.m. at the Centennial Stage on Saturday June 11th, rather than indoors at the Mint where it is currently being held while the Jazz Park Visitor Center in Dutch Alley is under renovation. Live music will accompany the yoga class.

8. The 30th Anniversary French Market Creole Tomato Festival Cookbook, containing 30 recipes submitted by local restaurants, home chefs, farmers, and festival vendors, will be sold for $10 at the festival souvenir stands. It contains vintage photos of past festivals, Creole tomato facts, a history of the festival, and 2 "lagniappe" recipes. Click here for a list of recipes.

9. The Tomato Soirée replaces the former Summer Harvest Gala, which was held in 2014 and 2015 at the Flea Market Pavilion the Wednesday prior to fest. This year's pre-fest ticketed event will be held indoors at the newly renovated Marché, operated by Creole Cuisine Concepts, the newest tenant to join the French Market District.

Tickets are $75. Sunpie Barnes will perform, and awards will be given to longtime fest vendors and staff who have been with the festival and the French Market for 30+ years. Tickets are available for purchase here.

10. A new "Family Care Station", an indoor baby changing/lactation station for parents and their little ones, will be created indoors at the Mint across from the Jazz Park Gift Store, first floor. Parents and children can access this from the new festival children's area on the Esplanade side of the Old U.S. Mint, where the nola baby and family magazine entertainment stage and children's activities will be located.

11. The annual Creole Tomato Eating Contest will now be held BOTH festival days rather than one, with an adult and child category both Saturday and Sunday. It is free to enter and participants need to sign up by 12:15 p.m. at the Louisiana Cookin' Culinary Stage in the Farmers Market, where the contest will be held in between cooking demonstrations. Winners receive a trophy and a complimentary bag of tomatoes plus festival souvenirs.

12. The festival's recent tradition (since 2014) of The Ripe & Ready Rally will be held this year at the Old U.S. Mint on the Centennial Stage, led by Doc Griggs and Dancing Man with Free Agents Brass Band. Robin Barnes of "Move your Brass" will teach a special 25 minute "Bounce Your Brass" onstage prior to the rally. After the brief rally, the band will lead a secondline through fest grounds: through the Flea and Farmers Markets, to Dutch Alley, to end at Washington Artillery Park to end with the FIRST BITE OF THE SEASON, when 100 tomatoes are offered to the general public to enjoy as a fest opener. Several costumed characters and performers including the Black Storyville Baby Dolls will assist with distributing the tomatoes at Washington Artillery Park.

13. Ben & Ben Becnel Farms will sell from the main farmers market stalls, near the Louisiana Cookin' Culinary Stage. Vouchers earned by patrons who shop for $30 or more of goods in FMC District shops will redeem their vouchers for complimentary tomatoes here.

14. George's Produce will sell tomatoes near the food booths, located along Barracks in front of the Old U.S. Mint. He will offer creole tomato samples at the stand, and other fresh local produce as well as his preserves, dressings, and more.

15. The 3rd annual Best of the Fest Food Booth Awards will be given out Saturday at 1:30 by a panel of judges to include Peggy and Errol Laborde, WWOZ special guests, and others. Festival food booth awards are given for the following categories: Tastiest, Healthiest, Most Traditional, and Most Creative.

16. The Creole Tomato Cabaret by The Chorus Girls Project makes a reprise, this year at the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park Centennial Stage at the Old U.S. Mint. Approximately 15 dancing girls including three in tomato costumes, will entertain in a choreographed piece, reminiscent of chorus girl routines of the 1930s.


17. The Louisiana Cookin' Culinary stage at the farmers market will feature 10:00 a.m. morning "Tomato Talks" with Dianne GumboMarie Honore, a local historian and weekly French Market District tour guide and culinary demonstrator at the French Market. She will interview Chef Kevin Belton on Saturday and George LaFargue on Sunday.

18. There will be 18 food booths this year, compared to last year's 16, and will include these new vendors:

Miss Linda the Yakamein Lady serving up Creole Crawfish & Tomatoes Baked Mac & Cheese

Bistreaux at the Bank: Deep Fried BLT
Café Dauphine: Catfish Couvillon
Loretta's Pralines: Crab Meat Tomato Beignets
Plus these returning vendors:
Superior Seafood: Creole Tomato Shrimp Ceviche (Best of the Fest 2015)
George's Produce: Ponchatrain Salad (Best of Fest 2014)
Andrea's Restaurant and Catering: Creole Tomato Eggplant Parmigiana (Best of the Fest 2014)
J's Seafood Dock: Crawfish Beignets (Best of the Fest 2015)
Crepes a la Carte: Creole Tomato, Basil & Mozarella Crepes (Best of the Fest 2014 and 2015)

19. In addition to food booths in front of the Mint, there will be five food trucks at Crescent Park, each featuring a required Creole tomato dish: Diva Dawg, Food Drunk, Mr. Choo, Petite Rouge, and Frencheeze.

20. Chef demonstrations occur every hour between 11:30 and 5:30 p.m. at the Louisiana Cookin' culinary stage, including demonstrations by: Chris Montero, Napoleon House; Mike Gulotta, MoPho; Brad McGehee, Blue Line Sandwich Co.; Jazz Artist and 30th Anniversary Cookbook contributor Stephanie Jordan, and more. Click here for a full list of cooking demonstrations, talks, and contests.

21. Chef Kevin Belton of New Orleans School of Cooking, whose new cooking show just debuted on WYES-TV, will sign copies of his new cookbook: Kevin Belton's Big Flavors of New Orleans! Following his Tomato Talk and cooking demonstration, at 11:30 a.m. at the Louisiana Cookin' culinary stage.


22. The nola baby and family magazine's family entertainment stage at the Mint will feature new work by Uptown Music Theatre, Crescent City Lights Youth Theater, Confetti Park Players, Swamp Romp with Johnette Downing and Scott Billington, and a special joint performance by Patrice Fisher and Arpa with The International School's Circus Arts students. Click here for a full schedule of family entertainment.

23. The children's area will take up the entire grassy Esplanade side of the Mint, featuring Hula Hooping and bubbles with HeyNewHooping, a Playbuild NOLA pop up playground, and four interactive craft booths. The spot provides easy access to the Family Care station Jazz Park gift shop, and restrooms, all on first floor of the Mint.


24. 10,000 of the signature complimentary tomato shaped fans will be given out rather than the usual 5,000. These can be found at one of three souvenir stands throughout the festival: In Dutch Alley, in front of the Mint near the food booths, and at Crescent Park.

25. The fest features new merchandise: In addition to the new 30th annual Creole Tomato Festival cookbook, this year's merchandise will include rain ponchos with a tomato design, and a 2016 commemorative festival poster.

Commemorative 30th anniversary "Ripe and Ready" tshirts, tanks, and aprons will be on sale at all three festival stands
26. The commemorative festival poster, designed by local artist Merrie Morrow, will be unveiled at the June 1st press conference at 10:00 a.m. in front of the French Market archway at Ursulines.

27. The closing act of the festival's mainstage at Crescent Park at Mandeville Wharf is Darcy Malone and The Tangles, performing from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Sunday June 12th.

28. The Dutch Alley Performance Pavilion, a more intimate stage at St. Philip and Decatur Streets along the floodwall, will feature primarily solo or duet performing artists such as Lynn Drury, Kelcy Mae, and Smoky Greenwell, and will be located in between a few specialty food booths and the Bloody Mary Market in Dutch Alley.

29. Dutch Alley Artist's Co-Op, a 10 year French Market District tenant, will host and produce a special festival arts market in Dutch Alley at Dumaine Plaza, outside their gallery. The arts market will feature artists who are not currently members of the Co-Op, expanding their reach to invite more local artists to join in the festival fun. The indoor gallery will be open throughout festival hours each day, representing 26 local artists and their work.

30. A press conference will be held June 1st at 10 a.m. outdoors at the French Market archway at Ursulines, featuring a sneak preview of the Creole Tomato Cabaret with the Chorus Girls Project, and a special Blessing of the Tomatoes by the Very Reverend Father Phillip Landry, St. Louis Cathedral.

For more information, to schedule interviews with farmers or chefs, entertainers and vendors, and for photographs of previous festivals, contact French Market marketing director Amy Kirk Duvoisin, 504-289-0789 (cell), 504-636-6370 (desk) or akirk@frenchmarket.org.