Gator By The Bay Zydeco, Blues and Crawfish Festival - 15th Annual
May 5-9, 2016
Spanish Landing Park (across from San Diego Airport)
San Diego, CA
Gator By The Bay never disappoints.
We’re talking San Diego in May. Sunny, 70s, low humidity, breeze blowing on shore from San Diego Bay. Beats Boston’s bone chilling March and beginning of April.
We’re talking about the promoters of this event who know how to sniff out talent from the big names to fabulous bands that no one outside San Diego has ever heard of. Thousands of people fork over $35 just to spend the day in camp chairs or on hay bales strategically placed around three of the four stages just to listen.
We’re talking about a Mother’s Day dance mecca so good that a legion of moms spend it right here. The hell with the flowers. Give them a good six or eight beat count and they will feel the love whether their spouses or kids are here or not.
We’re talking dancers who pencil in next year’s Gator By The Bay weekend the day after they return home from this one. Why? Swing, Rock 'n Roll, Rockabilly, Country, Zydeco, Cajun, Blues, Americana, New Orleans funk, Latin, and, I kid you not, Gypsy Alt that feels like you’ve just discovered a gypsy caravan at a roadside stand…that’s why.
We’re talking food. A hundred yard stretch in the middle of the park with the smoke and smell of Louisiana food that will fuel you up for hours of dancing. And sweet stuff, as in Funnel Cakes, pecan pie, and hot powdery beignets that remind you of Café du Monde. Judging by the lines, a huge contingent has come here to feast on po’boys, sweet potato fries, red beans and rice; jambalaya; seafood, chicken and gator gumbo, shrimp or crawfish étouffée, boudin and andouille sausage; fried catfish, hush puppies, corn on the cob and more.
We’re talking sprawling grassy areas sprinkled with young families with kids in tow, couples, jugglers, hula hoopers and picnickers lounging on blankets and beach chairs.
We’re talking about a Monet blue view of San Diego Marina dotted with sailboats moored and afloat.
We’re talking dance fiends who think nothing of getting on a plane or taking a half day’s drive or more to spend time with others for whom music and dancing are like meditation, yoga, and flirty foreplay wrapped into one glorious grand ol’ time which fits the event slogan: “If you’re smiling, you’re doing it right.”
Fatigue sets in after six hours of dancing on Saturday. It’s 6:00 PM. Two hours to go. My legs say, “Pack it in, PT.” A band at one of the four stages launches a slinky blues song. A woman standing next to me extends her hand. An endorphin afterburner kicks in. The Gator By The Bay has swallowed me whole.
+++++++++ Photo section
Spanish Landing Park, a sliver of parkland between one of the marinas in San Diego Bay and the San Diego Airport right behind it. The Festival Stage pavilion and the Mardi Gras Stage pavilion. Two smaller stages, the Fountain Stage and the Bourbon Stage, each with a dance area, are between these two pavilions.
Impromptu dancing may break out anywhere.
Recreation, relaxation, and playtime for one and all.
A walk from the east end to the west end of the park, shimmering water of the marina in sight the whole way.
Bayou Grove tent where musicians talk about their craft; the Festival Stage during a quiet moment.
Fill up your plate then find a cool place to sit down and enjoy it...walk along the row of vendor tents.
View of San Diego skyline, San Diego Bay, Coronado Island, from 11th floor of the Sheraton Marina Hotel - note the USS Gerald R. Ford, the newest super-carrier in the US Navy fleet, docked at Coronado Island.
Photos by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.