Cajun Fest is back with its biggest year yet

Catch live music at Cajun Fest this Saturday at Cowles Commons. Photo: Anna Rohrs for Cajun Fest

Writer: Madeline Cisneros

Want a taste of Southern hospitality right here in Des Moines? Head out to Cajun Fest from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. this Saturday.

What started out as a block party crawfish boil has grown into an event for the whole city. This marks the festival’s fifth year and its first at Cowles Commons.

“We want to be downtown,” founder Stephen Smith said. “Cowles Commons is the middle of downtown, and with that beautiful skyline, I think it really sets us up for the future as a Des Moines staple.”

Smith wanted to use this platform to make a difference, and this year the festival is partnering with St. Vincent De Paul, which helps create pathways out of poverty through programs such as disaster-relief services and job training and placement.

“What I really appreciate about them is they are very intentional with how they help our community,” Smith said. “It’s the old proverb about teaching the fish versus feeding the fish, and they are very good about teaching people how to fish rather than just feeding them.”

The festival offers activities for all ages, including yard games, crafts, live music, the crowning of a Cajun Royal Court and, of course, a lot of good food. Think you can take the heat? Participate in the spicy jambalaya contest and try to answer questions as your taste buds get fired up.

Smith said folks are coming in from at least 13 states, including Alabama, Florida and Texas.

“It’s really cool to see this thing get large enough that people are coming from outside of Iowa just for this opportunity,” he said.

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