By Amyre Brandom-Skinner
Foodies and festival lovers traveled from across the country to New Orleans’ Champions Square to satisfy their sweet tooth cravings for the staple of the Mardi Gras Season: King Cake. It was the Fifth Annual King Cake Festival hosted by Ochsner Hospital for Children on Sunday, Jan. 28th, downtown on Poydras Street. People enjoyed the delicious dessert in a variety of forms and flavors in support of a charitable cause. Some 26 bakeries presented culinary creations as Ochsner’s Department of Philanthropy raised funds to support infants in need of patient assistance.
“Often times a family shows up at the hospital with just the clothes on their back,” said Maida Jones, the Director of Annual Giving at Ochsner Health System. “They don’t have money for food, lodging, or other essentials. All of this goes to help the families and benefit children in need whose families are unable to provide certain things for them,” she said.
Festival-goers from other states showed up to support the festival and fill their King Cake craving. “I met a gentleman from a Seattle Children’s Hospital,” said Mark Armstrong, Executive Assistant to the Chairman of Pediatrics at Ochsner. “He saw that another pediatric hospital was promoting a festival, so he wanted to come out and support it,” he said.
The family event is a now a yearly tradition, designed to attract all ages. Jeannine Mirambell and her family said the event is a fun time to jumpstart the Mardi Gras Season. “We’ve been bringing the whole family since the beginning. We get to taste all of the King Cake while the kids get to run around and have a good time,” Mirambell said. “We’re King Cake crazy people…we eat King Cake for breakfast, lunch, and dinner during Mardi Gras,” she said.
As people indulged in the sweet treat, live music performances filled the air. Solo acts, bands, and a high school pom pom team took the stage to perform for the crowd. Sugar from the King Cake and enjoyment of the entertainment moved the crowd to create a dance floor in front of the stage.
Each vendor brought cake and creativity to their booth proving that King Cake is not just a dessert. The “King Cake Burger” is a festival favorite that families often have to split for everyone to enjoy. Another crowd favorite was the “King Cake on a Stick.” Children wrapped the line around Champions Park as they encouraged their parents to stand in line for a King Cake Donut. Even vendors said they enjoyed preparing and eating their King Cake creations. “I can’t wait to go take a break and eat because we have some good food out here,” said Daut’e Martin, an employee with Bywater Bakery, a vendor at the festival.
“We brought our traditional King Cake bouille, chantilly, apple, praline, and strawberry,” Martin said. The fresh fruit toppings and authentic flavors caused Bywater Bakery to have one of the longest lines of the festival. Staff said they welcomed the long line of King Cake lovers to their tent. “We were up last night late preparing everything for today, so I don’t think we’ll run out. If we do I’ll be shocked,” Martin said. And despite dozens of customers, the King Cake kept on rolling.