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Mud Bugs

If you love crawfish, April is your month.

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The 15th Annual Overton Square Crawfish Festival is on Saturday, April 10th, and this time around, organizers are closing off Madison from Cooper to just past Florence.

"Since [the festival] has been growing, we wanted to give it more space," says Ron Bobal, director of the festival.

Bayou Bar & Grill will provide the critters and stir up some Cajun favorites like gumbo and red beans and rice. There also will be an arts-and-crafts market, live music, and a variety of beers from D. Canale.

Proceeds from food, beer, and crafts sales will benefit the Alzheimer's Association, but the music and the ambience are free. Star & Micey will kick off the set, followed by Bulletproof Vests, Jack O & the Tennessee Tearjerkers, and Snowglobe.

Overton Square Crawfish Festival, Saturday, April 10th, noon-6 p.m. For more information, call Ron Bobal at 281-6468.

On Friday, April 16th, and Saturday, April 17th, head down to the 5th Annual Creole Crawfish Festival at the Southaven Arena for a full-fledged Creole experience, including a gumbo cook-off and a zydeco dance contest.

Crawfish from Eunice, Louisiana, will be brought in fresh each day, and vendors will be filling plates with jambalaya, red beans and rice, and blackened fish. Traditional fair food and barbecue vendors will be there as well, but as Debbie Jenkins, director of the festival, says, "Our mission is to promote art, music, and culture across state lines, so the theme of the festival this year is 'Mississippi Meets Louisiana.'"

The festival starts at 9 a.m. and ends at 11 p.m. both days. On Saturday morning, be sure to catch the Cajun puppet show starring Madame Poulet and Monsieur Roach in a tragic tale of ill-fated romance, and then stick around for Elvis impersonator "King Creole."

Tickets are $10, but children under 12 get in free. The festival benefits "No Music Left Behind," a program that refurbishes used musical instruments for local schools, and they welcome you to contribute any instruments you may have as well.

Creole Crawfish Festival, Friday-Saturday, April 16th-17th, 9 a.m.-11 p.m. For more information, visit creolecrawfishfestival.com or contact Debbie Jenkins at 619-5865.

On Sunday, April 18th, in downtown Memphis, Porter-Leath will hold its 18th annual City Auto Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival. They'll have music, a gumbo cooking contest, and more than 16,000 pounds of Louisiana crawfish. And of course, they'll have their famous "Zany Cajun" contests, including crawfish races, a crawfish toss, a crawfish eating contest, and a crawfish bob. Bobbing for crawfish?

"We usually wait until people get pretty intoxicated," says Mike Warr of Porter-Leath. "Then we put a pan of live crawfish in front of them, and they have to move the crawfish with their mouths from one pan to the next." (Insider tip: If you've got a beard, you've got an advantage. "The crawfish tend to grab onto them and ride over," according to Warr.)

Leading up to the festival, they'll be giving away around 600 pounds of crawfish, so register on cityauto.com to get your share of the freebies. Of course, you can always just grab a bucket while you're there. One three-pound bucket goes for about $15.

Vendors will include Bayou Bar & Grill, Cajun Catfish, Pearl's Oyster House, and fair-food stalls. The event will be held at Wagner Place between Beale and Union, and admission is free.

Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival, Sunday, April 18th, noon-6 p.m., Wagner Place. For more information, visit porter-leath.org or call Mike Warr at 577-2500.

Can't make it to the festivals? Every week, Off the Dock offers live crawfish from Cottonport, Louisiana. The crawfish range from $2 to $2.50 per pound and come in 35- to 40-pound bags. Order your bag by Friday afternoon to pick them up fresh on Tuesday or by Wednesday afternoon to pick them up on Friday or Saturday.

Off the Dock Fresh Seafood, 3511 Sky Harbor Cove (546-7997)

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