Thousands of people lined the streets of downtown San Andreas on Saturday for the Rotary Club of San Andreas’ 3rd annual Ragin’ Cajun Fest. Their signature event brought Cajun flair to Main Street with a Louisiana-style crawfish boil, steaming hot jambalaya, Cajun smoked sausages, local vendors and swingin’ live music on three different stages.
According to event organizers, approximately $25,000 was raised, which will “go back into the community,” after the cost of event expenses. Proceeds will benefit the Hospice of Amador and Calaveras, as well as the Calaveras High School football and cheerleading teams.
When asked how this year compared to the last event – pre-Covid in 2019 – organizers said it was a little busier, but they had expected that. They estimate that 2,100 tickets have been sold this year, with the majority sold at the door.
Jim and Mary Anne Melson of Valley Springs said the last time seemed like a hit with thousands of people, even though it rained. The couple were one of dozens of vendors at the street fair this year, selling their award-winning olive oil and balsamic vinegar from a pop-up tent on Main Street.
Co-chair and organizer Dave Schmedes told the Enterprise that in 2019 they had a much bigger turnout than expected, which is why they ran out of food.
“We were better prepared this time. Last time we had three food stalls, and this time we had nine. We had three music scenes,” said Schmedes, who founded the Rotary Club of San Andreas with Sherri Reusche in 2017. Prior to that, he was an Arnold member and has a total of thirty-one years in Rotary.
On this tour, festival organizers transported 1,500 pounds of live crawfish, though a mix-up nearly caused them to fly to Reno, where event supplier Sacks Crawfish is located.
Another problem arose when the organizers picked up their reserved refrigerated truck the day before the event and discovered that none were available. A few last-minute scrambles to find an alternative looked promising until the replacement truck broke down. Fortunately, the festival has found an arrangement to use the cold rooms of the restaurants on Main Street.
Schmedes commends the volunteers who helped make the event a success, like the Calaveras High football team, which loaned 60 players and more than 20 cheerleaders to run food stations, empty trash cans and other help. .
“They are amazing,” Schmedes said.
Festival vendors were selling a variety of handicrafts, such as macrame hanging plant holders, horseshoe art, jewelry, bath and body products, while local outlets sold products like cigars and gun accessories. Local food vendors included Hawg Dawg’s, Artisan Butcher Smokehouse with their award-winning sausages (which can also be found in Mar Val stores), while San Andreas fixture Black Bart Inn offered beer and wine, with a Cajun-themed dinner menu. The Metropolitan Theater housed one of three live music stages and also offered bar drinks and sandwiches for those looking for a sweeter meal. Beignets, traditional French-style donuts covered in powdered sugar, were also available, made by Dave Haggard, owner of Sacks Crawfish, with the help of young volunteers.
Music at the Metropolitan included the Rusty Rockers, a five-piece band that performed ’60s hits like Blue Suede Shoes as couples twirled and swung their partners across the black-and-white checkered floor.
On a stage set up at the top of Main Street, The Funky Gators entertained with authentic Zydeco tunes, complete with washboard and accordion. Beau Rumpus, described on his Facebook profile as a fusion of “swamp funk and Latin blues”, also performed on this stage, as shoppers browsed vendor tents and sampled locally made cheeses.
At the southeast corner of the festival, another stage was set up in the grassy area across from Neilsen Park, Latin rhythm band Primitivo and Jeramy Norrris and the Blues Cartel entertained guests as they crouched to tables on the lawn and along the creek, plates stacked with bright red crawfish and cold cans of beer in hand.
According to Co-Chair Reusche, Rotary was able to use the park since it had “adopted” it, painting benches, trimming trees and removing a juniper overgrowth in the park.
Reusche told the Enterprise that the event was “amazing” and said, “We’ve been able to grow this year. … This expansion allowed us to really increase the size of the festival. So next year will be bigger and better.