Beignet Fest :: Our Favorite Fall Tradition

Beignet Fest :: Our Favorite Fall Tradition

There are two things that I love in this world: Fall Festivals and Good Causes. Lucky for me, New Orleans is full of both.

With school well underway and the summer heat still insufferable as ever, I can’t help but look ahead to cooler months, and the opportunities we will have to enjoy New Orleans culture. There are many lists out there about pumpkin patches and fairs — which we used to frequent years ago – but as my son has grown older and busier, we’ve had to be intentional about the traditions we hold on to. Our whole house agrees that there is one event we can’t miss: Beignet Fest.

Setting aside the joy of the event itself, the story of its founding has always resonated with us. While Beignet Fest seems like a celebration of sugary treats, it is so much more. Founded by Amy and Sherwood Collins, Beignet Fest supports programs for autistic children in our region. When their own child, Liam, was diagnosed with autism, they saw a clear lack of local resources for both children and parents. Having met at YLC’s Wednesdays at the Square and devoted Jazz Fest ‘every dayers,’ the Collins’ did what any fun-loving New Orleans family would do: They created their own festival!

The Collins’ did what any fun-loving New Orleans family would do: They created their own festival!

Sherwood – his wife calls him the “Idea Guy” – conceived the festival around raising awareness and funds for local nonprofit autism programs. They soon got to work, making plans for the first-ever Beignet Fest, which took place in 2016. (Coincidentally, the same year we relocated from Baton Rouge to New Orleans!)

Seven years since its founding, and despite the pandemic interruption, proceeds from Beignet Fest have totaled over $100,000 and provided aid to local autism programs including:

  • Adaptive swimming lessons for autistic youth
  • Inclusive summer camps + extracurricular programs
  • Support groups and workshops for parents and children
  • Critical training for first responders
  • A sensory activation vehicle to ensure more local events and festivals are inclusive and sensory-friendly.

If this isn’t reason enough to attend, here are the top five reasons that Beignet Fest is an event our family never misses:

1. The Music: This year’s schedule includes Black Magic Drumline, Imagination Movers, New Soul Finders featuring Marilyn Barbarin and Marc Stone, Mia Borders, Flow Tribe, and Flagboy Giz. There is a lot of space for families to spread out and enjoy the performances.

2. The Kids Village:  Together, festival organizers and Children’s Hospital staff have planned a fully interactive, sensory friendly Kids Village with a host of activities. Fest goers can dance under a “Silent Disco Ball” to their own beat. They can get their hands dirty with a sand play box and run through “giant noodles” that simulate a car wash experience for kid. There’s even an oversized Lite Brite!

The Autism Center at Children’s Hospital of New Orleans have staff on site to volunteer and help facilitate the fun.

Enjoying delicious, hot beignets at Beignet Fest!
Enjoying delicious, hot beignets at Beignet Fest!

3. The Beignets (Duh): They are planning to have 50 different beignet dishes this year!! There are also vegan and gluten free options for sensitive palettes. I was snooping on the website this week and I already know which booths I’m heading straight towards.

4. The VIP Experience: 10/10 recommend this experience, as it gets you prime access to a giant shade tent near the stage, VIP bathrooms, and tastes of Happy Raptor’s Hibiscus Lemonade (spiked and non alcoholic), along with other curated cocktails, water, and soft drinks throughout the day.

5. The Cause: As I mentioned earlier, proceeds from ticket sales and Beignet Fest merchandise benefit the Beignet Fest Foundation. What a great excuse to eat fried dough in the sunshine!

We love this event so much that we even attended virtually in 2021, when COVID restrictions paused celebrating in person.

This year, we look forward to enjoying it together again as a family – if you get there first, save me Mrs. Loretta’s Praline Beignet please.

Save these Details:

When: Saturday, Sept 23, 10 AM until 6 PM
Where: New Orleans City Park Festival Grounds
General Admission Tickets: $20 in advance/$25 on the day of the event
Kids 12 and under are free.
VIP Tickets: $50 in advance/$60 on the day of the event.
Kids VIP Tickets (ages 5 to 17): $25 and must be purchased with the child present at the gate.

Stephanie Davi-McNeely
Stephanie Davi McNeely has been in and around the nonprofit fundraising space for nearly twenty years. She oversees development and strategic partnerships, for the ACE Mentor Program of America, a national nonprofit mentoring program based in Philadelphia. There she is responsible for corporate and individual fundraising initiatives, as well as the growth and development of national partnerships with design and construction firms. In her spare time, she plays mom’s league softball, watches her son play soccer, takes French class through the Alliance, and serves as the First Lady of the University of Holy Cross in Algiers. She resides in New Orleans, Louisiana with her husband and 11-year-old son.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here