Party in the Park returns Friday

Auburn's 'barbecue on steroids' features Cajun theme
By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Journal features editor
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It’s time for one of Auburn’s biggest parties of the year, and everyone is invited.

The 12th annual Party in the Park will fill Regional Park Friday, where there will be plenty of ways to keep young and old entertained.

“It’s my favorite thing in the world,” said organizer Scott Holbrook, also known as “the purveyor of fun.” “It’s the best time you can have in Auburn. Flat-out, it’s the funnest event in Auburn – there’s none other that compare.”

Holbrook said the Auburn Recreation District event has come a long way since the first party, when organizers borrowed a rickety stage to hold the band. But even then, the spirit of community came through, as local nonprofits came out to host a beer garden, a company offered inflatables for kids at a low price and a little more than 1,000 people turned out to watch headliners Mumbo Gumbo perform.

These days, between 2,000 and 3,000 people head to Party in the Park for the music, beer garden, food court, homemade ice cream and kids’ fun zone with giant inflatables. Multiple service organizations sell food, drink and crafts for charity, and this year will feature a brick-oven pizza company.

“It’s so cool,” Holbrook enthused. “It’s kind of like a big huge family barbecue on steroids.”

Admission is free, although there is a fee for use of the inflatable fun area. Families are welcome to bring their own picnics, although organizers do hope they’ll visit the food court to help out nonprofits.

Sheryl Petersen, recreation services manager for ARD, said youngsters can look forward to an array of fun in the kids area. Mobile Rock will bring climbing walls, huge slides and water activities, and face painters will be on hand (for kids and adults).

“For $10 the kids can have unlimited rides throughout the evening,” Petersen said. “While the parents are sitting there enjoying the music, the kids have something to do.”

The music they’ll be enjoying this year is provided by Lisa Haley and the Zydekats, a Cajun/Zydeco band that fits in perfectly with the event’s Mardi Gras theme.

“It’s very, very happy music,” Haley explained. “People cannot sit still when they hear it. It moves your soul, it gives you joy, and Lord knows we need joy right now.”

The band recently released their eighth CD, “Joy Ride,” under their Blue Fiddle Records label. Their last CD, “King Cake,” was nominated for a Grammy.

Haley, a fourth-generation fiddler, has been performing since age 4. Throughout her career, she has worked with Cajun/Zydeco legends such as Queen Ida, Danny Poulard and Joe Simien, her “adopted father.” She has also worked on several movie and television soundtracks, and has worked with Keb’Mo’, Brian Setzer, Lyle Lovett, Randy Newman and more.

The Zydekats are Chuck Alvarez on guitar and vocals, Gigi Rabe (the “accordion diva”), Andy Anders on bass and vocals and Maria Martinez on drums and percussion. Haley fronts the band with vocals and her signature blue Barcus Berry violin.

Zydeco musician Mark St. Mary opens the show, and then Haley and the Zydekats will perform their engaging Cajun music, playing songs off their new CD including the upbeat “Who’s your Crawdaddy?”

“They are coming to see an Americana/Cajun/Zydeco Grammy-nominated band play music that you can’t sit still to,” Haley said, when asked what party-goers can expect to see and hear Friday night. “Music with roots in French, Celtic, Irish, R&B, blues and Haitian. … Prepare to catch ‘zydecosis.’”

Reach Krissi Khokhobashvili at Follow her on Twitter, @AuburnJournalAE


Party in the Park

When: Friday, June 15. Band warm-ups start at 5:30 p.m.; headlining band plays at 7 p.m.

Where: Regional Park, 3770 Richardson Drive, Auburn

Cost: Free; food, drink, wine and beer available for purchase; $10 unlimited kids’ interactive toys

Info:; (530) 885-8461