Experiences

There's lots to do at Rajun Cajun! The festival is free admission and all proceeds benefit the 50,000 local children served by Porter-Leath each year. If you're looking to have the ultimate Rajun Cajun experience, check out some of our opportunities below. Keep in mind that with the exception of the contests, these areas must be booked in advance as they always sell out due to limited quantities.

SWAMP VIP TENT 

The most popular and exclusive experience at Rajun Cajun is the Swamp VIP tent. From noon until 6:00 PM that afternoon, attendees enjoy an unlimited crawfish buffet including other Cajun cuisine, desserts, beer, and beverages while relaxing under the shade of the big tent. Tickets are $125 each or $225 per couple. This experience always sells out. To be included on the mailing list, visit our Contact us page and send us your mailing address. For groups of 10+, please call 901-577-2500 x 1119.

Swamp tent attendees

GUMBO COOK-OFF

It's all about that roux! The Rajun Cajun Gumbo Cook-Off features 24 local and regional teams that compete for the coveted skillet trophy and over $1,000 in cash prizes. Teams must create a truly authentic Louisiana gumbo that includes seafood cooked with various spices and vegetables and served similar to a soup/stew. With no two gumbos alike, our local celebrity judges are up the challenge to find the best dish! 

Gumbo Cookoff winners

CRAWFISH CONTESTS 

Crawfish Eating

How fast can you eat a 3-pound bucket of crawfish? Find out in this crowd-favorite contest. The entry fee is a $20 donation to the Porter-Leath children. Sign up is limited to the first dozen contestants and is in advance. To sign up, visit the t-shirt sales tent on the day of the festival.

crawfish eating contest

Crawfish bobbing

Contestants in this game try not to get in a "pinch" as they try to pull as many live crawfish out of a tub of water using only their mouths! Contestants must be 18 or older and must sign up in advance at the t-shirt sales tent. 

crawfish bobbing

Crawfish racing

Children love to compete in this game! Contestants and onlookers cheer and shout to help their live crawfish racers make across the finish line first. Walking backward of course! To participate, go to the Beale Street Stage at 2:30 PM on the day of the festival.

crawfish racing

 

The Music

Each year, Porter-Leath's Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival is home to the best of local music, complete with top swamp soul all day long on the main stage. Set times are generally 11:30-12:30, 1:30-2:30, 3:30-4:30, and 5:30-6:30 for all stages.

Set times are subject to change. Lineup exceptions may apply due to weather, artist availability or other unexpected events. 

Southland Park Gaming & Racing Main Stage
Featuring: Marcella + Her Lovers

Born into one of the first Creole families to settle St. Landry Parish in culturally rich Louisiana, with a Dad who is an accomplished two-time GRAMMY award-winning artist, she grew up inspired by of some of the most influential artists in music. Hailing from Lafayette, Louisiana, Simien grew up onstage with her father.

It was normal for her to have Taj Mahal sing her happy birthday on her 17th or David Hidalgo be in the kitchen of her childhood home having late night gumbo with her dad, or be on tour with him when the band opened for Dave Matthews Band. At a young age, she displayed a natural talent for music and performance, but instead, she chose her own path and expanded her artistic experience. In 2009 she moved to Memphis to attend and graduate from the prestigious Memphis College of Art where she studied drawing and art history. In no time she was back onstage, delighting audiences with a sound born from fusing elements of her Creole heritage with the angelic grind of Memphis soul.

Her visual art is as fearless and sensual as her performance and music. Musically though, she followed the lead of two of the most fearless female singers; Nina Simone and Amy Winehouse. She continues their tradition of pushing the boundaries of contemporary music as strong, outspoken women who led their own groups which is still not the standard, but Simien was not intimidated by this responsibility and she remains a determined and ambitious soul singer with a strong roots music sensibility. One detects in Simien’s music subtle yet devastating touches of the Memphis and Muscle Shoals sounds infused with the fingerprint of her Creole ancestors—that now laughing, now sighing Zydeco accordion and exhortations in shouted Creole French. Throughout, Simien’s voice, an instrument fierce and galloping with dignified pleading, floats above the music’s cradled melee like a night star, fondly reminding us of a mysterious past while at once exciting us with the romance of the uncertain future.

Artistically confident, composed and courageous well beyond her 27 years, Simien has been lauded by Boo Mitchell as “one of the most soulful artist I've heard since the glory days of Memphis soul music. Her sound and stage presence is a constant reminder that soul music is still alive and well.”  

Orion Federal Credit Union Beale St. Stage
Featuring: FreeWorld

Bassist/vocalist Richard Cushing and drummer David Skypeck were playing with The Moonlight Syncopators every Wednesday night at Lafayette’s Corner on Beale Street in August of 1986. The band featured a horn section, but by November horn players Sal Crocker and Scott Thompson had left the band. One night, the band was surprised by the unexpected guest appearances of veteran jazz saxophonist Herman Green and Stax trumpeter William “Nokie” Taylor. That initial jam session led to a number of subsequent collaborations and in September of 1987, Cushing and trumpeter Willie Waldman approached Green about forming a new band. They were joined by guitarist Clint Goodwin (later Wagner), keyboardist/vocalist Ross Rice, and Jimmy Ellis on drums and vocals. Together with sound technicians Michael Kearney and Dave Aron from Sun Studio and Vince Pratt, who also occasionally played rhythm guitar, the band soon became a local favorite.

FreeWorld played its first gigs at The South End, a restaurant on the corner of Front and Calhoun, in October of 1987. Their initial set lists were made up of an eclectic mix of songs by other performers, but it was not long before the band members began writing original material. FreeWorld’s first CD was recorded and co-produced by Daniel Pfeiffer at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee from late 1991 through mid-1993. By that time, the core lineup had evolved to include Cushing, Green and Skypeck, guitarist/vocalist Chuck Sullivan and percussionist Leopoldo “Rico Rumba” Lopez. The self-titled CD was a local hit and provided the band with ample opportunities to perform both locally and regionally. FreeWorld gained broader exposure over the next few years touring incessantly throughout the Southeastern United States, as well as embarking on two European tours in 1993. The band then expanded to include trumpeter Steve Dolan and a second saxophonist, Art Edmaiston, but unfortunately, it also began to unravel as their frenzied touring pace wore on some of the members. Eventually Sullivan and Lopez left, and guitarist Brian Overstreet and keyboardist/vocalist Parker Card were enlisted to take their places.

In July 1996, the band released You Are Here, produced by well-known studio veteran Jim Gaines. Gaines began his recording career at Stax in Memphis and later worked with Santana, Tower of Power, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Van Morrison, Steve Miller, Huey Lewis & The News, Bruce Hornsby, and Journey. The new CD brought the band even greater critical acclaim and continued success which led to band members being presented numerous Premier Player Awards by the Memphis Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS).

Perpetual personnel changes and frequent guest artist appearances have consistently characterized the band throughout the years. By 1997, Parker Card and Art Edmaiston had left the band, and trombonist Prentice Wulff-Woesten was added to the line-up. Over the years, guest artists have included Bono from U2, Levon Helm from The Band, Stax great Steve Cropper, The Memphis Horns, Phineas, Jr. and Calvin Newborn, James Cotton, Ace Cannon, guitar genius Shawn Lane, Artimus Pyle from Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jon Fishman and Page McConnell of Phish, Eric Gales and his brother Little Jimmy King, violinist Peter Hyrka, Kenny Neal, Ivan Neville, and George Coleman among many others.

After a decade FreeWorld was as active as ever, averaging nearly three hundred live performances a year. Despite their busy touring schedule, they continued to write and record new music. Diversity, which featured guest appearances by numerous friends, was recorded in 1999 at the famed Easley-McCain recording studio and produced by Ross Rice. FreeWorld was then voted one of the city’s best bands in the 2000 Memphis Flyer’s “Best of Memphis” reader’s poll. In 2003 they released Live from Memphis, co-produced by FreeWorld and Kevin Houston. The band’s lineup at that time included Cushing, Green, Skypeck, Overstreet, Dolan and Josh Degges on alto saxophone, with occasional appearances by Wulff-Woesten, Nokie Taylor, and both Ross Rice and Paul Brown on keyboards. They followed that by releasing the CD single Save Our Soul in 2005, recorded at Willie Mitchell’s world famous Royal Recording Studio here in Memphis, with Hope Clayburn replacing Josh Degges on saxophone, and featuring special guest artists James Govan on lead vocals and Rick Steff on Hammond B3 organ. There have also been numerous side projects, as well as outside collaborations and the promotion of up and coming acts.

While continuing to be important recording artists and performers in their own right, FreeWorld members have also worked as movers and shakers behind the scenes helping their fellow Memphis musicians within the local music community. Band members, most notably Richard Cushing, have been active in local music organizations such as NARAS and the Memphis and Shelby County Music Commission. Their efforts are a benefit to all musicians in our community and will certainly leave an indelible mark on the history of Memphis music.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Riverside Stage

Featuring: Nick Black

Nick Black is quickly becoming one of the most recognizable names in the pop/soul music scene. His energetic live show experience features smooth soul vocals, soaring falsetto, and blazing guitar. Black and his band are bringing together the sounds of old and new, creating something completely unique and entirely original. 

Nick’s newest single “One Night Love” was released July 30th, 2018 to critical acclaim along with a neon-colored hula hoop extravaganza of a music video. Produced by Black and Memphis producer James Bennett, and mastered by Grammy-winning engineer Brad Blackwood, “One Night Love” pushes Nick headlong into pop and funk territory. With hints of Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars having always been a staple of Nick’s music, they’ve truly come to the forefront of his sound in this new adventure. 

Nick's last album SUMMER & SPRING was released August of 2017. Produced by Black and Memphis producer James Bennett, and mastered by Grammy-winning engineer Brad Blackwood, SUMMER & SPRING fuses classic Memphis R&B with the spirit of new soul coming out of the Bluff City. Featuring two video singles, the summer jam “Joy to the Girl” and the equally colorful title track “Summer + Spring”, this new album pushes Nick's soul roots to their max. 

Nick released his second album DEEP BLUE in 2015 to critical acclaim, featuring two music videos for the tracks “Ocean” and “Worst You Can Do”. His work on the album bridged the gap between his soul music roots and his songwriting, allowing Black to come into his own as an artist. Following the release of DEEP BLUE, Nick began touring nationally throughout the Midsouth and east coast of the US, backed up by a group of top tier Memphis musicians. He has been featured on “Muscle Shoals to Music Row”, a concert series filmed at legendary Fame Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, as well as on Americana and Roots channel DittyTV as one of their featured artists.

Black won the 2015 Juneteenth awards for “Album of the Year” and “Band of the Year”, The Pioneer Award for “Most Promising Male Entertainer”. He also won the 2016 Blues Music Award for “Band of the Year” for his work with award-winning blues and boogie-woogie band Victor Wainwright & The WildRoots. Nick is now touring nationally.