Food & Drink

‘A hot mess:’ Gumbo and jambalaya festival’s slim pickings leave customers stewing

More than 25 attendees had voiced their displeasure on the Gumbo and Jambalaya Music Festival’s Facebook page as of Sunday evening.
More than 25 attendees had voiced their displeasure on the Gumbo and Jambalaya Music Festival’s Facebook page as of Sunday evening.

The Gumbo and Jambalaya Music Festival brought food trucks, clothing sales and a live band to Miller Regional Park on Sunday afternoon. The only thing missing, some visitors said, was the Creole food advertised in the event’s title.

More than 25 people took to the festival’s Facebook event page Sunday to complain about hour-long wait times and a lack of stands selling the main attractions. Attendees said they came from as far away as San Jose for what they thought would be a smorgasbord of stews, only to leave wondering if their $5 tickets would be refunded.

Festival organizer Marvel White said six vendors served jambalaya and gumbo Sunday, a number inconsistent with customer reviews. A walk through the park at 4 p.m. — one hour before the festival’s conclusion — found two booths selling the headliner dishes.

City staff didn’t let vendors into the park until about 10 a.m., White said, and seafood sellers scrambled to set up their tents and cook dishes before the event opened at 11. They began serving food to hungry customers in long lines around noon, White said.

“We got in late and started late, but it balanced out around 2,” White said. “Those who stayed got what they wanted and had a good time.”

Attendees called the Gumbo and Jambalaya Music Festival “a flop,” “horrible,” “a hot mess” and “embarrassing” on its Facebook page, and several had suggestions for how to improve it. White said Sunday she plans to organize it again next year, though likely at a different location.

“Next time … have more vendors not just 3 and a couple local trucks. Have more trash cans and someone to take care of the festival,” festivalgoer Tammy Fenton wrote. “Terrible event. Bummed. We were so excited about it ahead of time.”

General admission tickets for the event cost $5, while VIP packages including seats near the stage, a swag bag and access to a separate line for food stands — the last of which some attendees complained wasn’t honored — cost $25. Once inside, varying sizes of jambalaya and gumbo were another $10 to $20.

About 1,500 tickets were sold through EventBrite, White said, and a few hundred more were sold at the gate. Proceeds benefited SheBoss Entertainment, which White said helps fund artistic endeavors in the Sacramento area.

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