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August 7, 2012 > Cajun/Zydeco Festival

Cajun/Zydeco Festival

By M.J. Laird
Photos By Julie Grabowski

What began as a party on a Sunol property owned by former East Bay Regional Parks District revenue manager Mary Ann Canaparo, ended up as a crowded event that outgrew the venue. Canaparo moved the party into Fremont where it has turned into one of Ardenwood Historic Farm's best loved festivals, now in its 16th year. The Cajun/Zydeco Festival happens Saturday, August 11, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and is expected to attract a crowd of 3,000 with its family-friendly, get-up-and-dance music. Although now retired, Canaparo still attends the festival every year.

Dance lessons start at 11 a.m. under an 80-foot-by-40 foot canopy, and the first band - Tom Rigney and Flambeau hailing from the West Coast - starts the party at 11:45 a.m. with fiery Cajun and Zydeco two-steps, low-down blues, and funky New Orleans grooves. Festival attendees are expected from near and far - throughout the Bay Area, Southern California and Louisiana.

Following Ardenwood's tradition, four bands will take the stage during the course of the day - two Louisiana-bred, where Cajun/Zydeco has its roots, and two homegrown San Francisco Bay Area bands.

Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band from Louisiana headlines the festival as the last act at 5:15 p.m. 2011 Grammy-winners for best Zydeco or Cajun Album, the band is led by third-generation Louisiana Zydeco singer and musician Chubby Carrier, who plays accordion and navigated his group to produce 10 albums in its 20-year history. The band has taken its concoction of blues, '70s funk, rock-and-roll and Zydeco flavors to major festivals throughout the U.S. and Europe. Newest member, guitarist Mark Metoyer twangs with San Francisco Bay Area roots. Born in San Francisco, Metoyer grew up in Redwood City, joining Chubby Carrier in 2010 after more than a decade playing Cajun Zydeco music with other bands.

Corey Ledet & his Zydeco Band, which recently had its recording "Driving Me Crazy" featured in a Tabasco commercial, takes the stage at 1:15 p.m. Born and raised in Houston, bandleader Ledet spent summers with family in a small Louisiana town immersing himself in Creole culture. By age 10, he was playing drums for Wilbert Thibodeaux and the Zydeco Rascals, eventually picking up accordion. After high school, he moved to Louisiana to infuse old and new styles of Zydeco and Creole into his own unique sound with Corey Ledet & His Zydeco Band.

Andre Thierry & Zydeco Magic, a San Francisco Bay Area band, has played in every Cajun/Zydeco Festival at Ardenwood since the festival began. Making a return appearance, the band performs at 3:15 p.m. Blending traditional Zydeco music, hip-hop, blues, jazz and rock, the band was recently voted best Zydeco group by the Bay Area Blues Society. Thierry was born in Richmond, California, with family roots from Louisiana. His grandfather encouraged Thierry to play accordion after a visit from the "King of Zydeco," legend Clifton Chenier. By age 12, Thierry was performing along with bands visiting from Louisiana. The Washington Post once called Thierry a "master" at "pumping out fast, funky rhythms on an instrument not usually associated with earthy syncopation."

Both Cajun and Zydeco music have their roots in Louisiana, with Zydeco borrowing some of its key elements from Cajun, which had borrowed from Creole. Cajun music features accordions, fiddles and steel guitars; Zydeco relies on accordions and rubboards.

"Its good energy," says Anne Kassebaum, Recreation Services Manager for East Bay Regional Park District, who has planned the festival since 2007. "The music makes you want to get up and move." Initially, Kassebaum was not a Cajun/Zydeco aficionado, but the Bay Area community that loves the music gave her a crash course. "Folks aren't shy about suggesting bands and telling me to try this one or saying we hit a home run and invite a band back the next year."

This year's festival also includes a number of food vendors serving Louisiana fare of catfish, crawfish, frog legs, shrimp gumbo, jambalaya, and sweet potato pie to name a few. The Dawn Breakers Lion's Club of Fremont will sell drinks, including soda, beer and wine. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Regional Parks Foundation that supports under-resourced children with camp experiences, and the District's Parks Express Program that provides bus transportation to senior groups, at-risk youth, and individuals with disabilities.

Tickets at the gate are $22 for adults ages 16 and older and $5 for children ages 4 to 15; children age three and under are free.

Cajun/Zydeco Festival
Saturday, August 11
10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Ardenwood Historic Farm
34600 Ardenwood Blvd., Fremont
(510) 544-2797
Tickets: $22 for adults, $5 for ages 4-15, free for ages 3 and younger

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