Food and friends complement music for bluesfest attendeesBlues music originated in the Deep South, and thanks to the Rampagin’ Cajun food truck, Bayfront Blues Festival patrons can taste the cuisine of the Deep South, too.
By: LaReesa Sandretsky , Duluth News Tribune
Blues music originated in the Deep South, and thanks to the Rampagin’ Cajun food truck, Bayfront Blues Festival patrons can taste the cuisine of the Deep South, too.
Matt Metzerott, who grew up in Kentucky and now lives in Hurley, has been peddling his Cajun eats at the bluesfest for 10 years, and he said Minnesotans are surprisingly receptive to the spicy food he serves.
“It’s about flavor as opposed to heat,” Metzerott said on Saturday while tossing seasoned fish fillets onto a hot grill. “If you blend it right, it’s not going to be overpowering and just blow you away.”
He must be doing something right: Tamra Anderson and her daughter Caryn Bruce, 11, of Duluth already had visited the food truck twice by Saturday afternoon. Anderson, attending her 11th festival, raved about the pork chop sandwich and said sampling food is a big part of her bluesfest experience.
“I love to eat here. I don’t eat anything before I come,” she said.
In addition to the Cajun cuisine, patrons can buy egg rolls, gyros, bloomin’ onions and a festival favorite, freshly squeezed lemonade. Metzerott said the diversity of food is a big plus for the bluesfest.
“You can try a different type of food every day,” he said. “Everything is really, really good. That’s part of a successful festival.”
The park isn’t the only place to find food. Parking lots surrounding the festival are full of tailgaters stocked with plenty of food and drinks. Doug Jensen of Duluth gets to the Great Lakes Aquarium parking lot early each day, and he and his friends set up tables and chairs.
“Everybody brings something,” he said. “We start coordinating about a week ahead of time.”
They all meet in the bluesfest parking lot and reunite each year over
tables full of food. Jensen estimates they fed 30 people on Saturday, serving salmon, lake trout, chicken wings and four kinds of pasta salad. Friday’s theme was “bring your own beef,” and today is brunch day. A highlight of today’s menu will be a concoction called the bacon explosion, which Jensen said consists of 1 pound of bratwurst and 2 pounds of bacon.
Jensen, who has attended the festival for 23 of its 25 years, said they eat in the festival grounds, too —he can’t pass up the bloomin’ onion.
Marcia and Pat Armstrong of Hugo, Minn., are attending their third bluesfest this weekend with their friends Scott and Pam Knutson of Shakopee, Minn. They try a new cuisine every year, but the freshly squeezed lemonade is their standby. They recycle their cups year after year and enjoy the ice-cold lemonade while watching the music from the back of the park.
“Duluth is awesome. Just being right on the lake, the people watching … this is why we hang back, we get to take it all in and hear the music,” Marcia Armstrong said.
Metzerott can hear the blues from his food trailer, too. He said his job lets him celebrate his love of food and music.
“I’m a huge music fan. This is a good way for me to get away and listen to music while making a living,” he said.
Rampagin’ Cajun first appeared at bluesfest 10 years ago, and Metzerott said it was one of their first gigs. Now, they bring their food to festivals throughout the Midwest.
“They took a chance on us,” he said. “It’s always kind of been a good one for us.”
In addition to creating relationships with bluesfest organizers and musicians, Metzerott said the festival food community is a family in itself.
“You make a lot of friends along the way. It’s fun to be able to sit around and catch up and see how their summers are going,” he said.
Some combination of the location, food, community and music keeps people coming back to bluesfest year after year. While attendees raved about the weather this year, most of them said they would attend even if the elements weren’t so cooperative.
“It’s not a question of whether I’ll be here each year,” Anderson said. “It’s a question of whether I’ll bring my umbrella, sunscreen or parka.”