The Foo Foo Festival in Pensacola, Florida, could be the best time you’ve never had.
Simply put, it’s a 12-day extravaganza of art, culture, cuisine and entertainment. Dozens of events and activities run in various (mostly) downtown locations, and they range from the silly to the sublime. Some require you to purchase a ticket, but many are free.
The Foo Foo Festival, held in November, was founded by arts-minded locals as a way to extend the tourism season as well as to promote cultural experiences beyond the stunning beaches.
Where did that goofy name come from? It’s a rather obscure reference, to be sure. A foo foo band was an informal musical group comprised of crew on 19th Century sailing vessels. (Keep that piece of trivia in mind, and you might be a winner on the “Jeopardy” TV show someday.)
On the Foo Foo Fest agenda are concerts, art exhibits, film, dance performances, public art installations, tastings, science experiments and interactive opportunities. Both emerging and traditional art forms are represented.
I was invited in 2017 by Visit Pensacola to experience the city and festival for myself. Doc Severinsen, former band leader and trumpeter with “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” performs with the Pensacola Civic Band. Women of Fire, female artists who use fire and flame to create art, demonstrate their glass blowing, metalwork, fire dancing and more. The Gullah Experience with Aunt Pearlie Sue enlivens the history and culture of this small Southern society of African American farmers and fishers through storytelling. The Pensacola LGBTQ Film Festival features comedy-pop duo and NYC Broadway performers Nick Clearly and Lauren Molina. You might know them better as the Skivvies.
Entwined within the pop-up events are several long-standing regional favorites including the Greater Gulf Coast Arts Festival, the 14th Annual Pensacola Marathon and the 34th Annual Frank Brown Songwriters Festival. Two more are the Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show and the Pensacola EggFest.
EggFest is a culinary fundraiser and all-you-can eat tastings of all sorts of delectables cooked on iconic Green Egg grills. You’ll find barbecued and smoked meats, seafood, veggies, pizza, casseroles, veggies and sweets. Proceeds go primarily to Rally Pensacola, which gives financial assistance to families with a child battling cancer. (This is a ticketed event, and a highlight for foodies. You can get a great deal on a Green Egg, too.)
In addition to the arts, downtown Pensacola offers historic walking tours, a large farmers market, quaint and chic shops, food trucks, worldwide and local cuisines, and a whiskey bar with a “library” of more than 650 whiskeys, other spirits and crafted cocktails.
November is a lovely time to visit Pensacola, Florida. Gone is the scathing heat, but the sunshine endures. Kids are in school and snowbirds have yet to migrate, so the beaches and bars are all yours. The evening air is crisp but not cold.
With so many creative possibilities ahead, how do you plan a Foo Foo Fest getaway? The folks in charge of the fun advise checking the schedule of events. Find your one or two must-see events and build an itinerary from there. Then keep checking the website. New events are frequently added.
No matter what you choose to do and see during the Pensacola Foo Foo Fest, you’ll find Southern sophistication and warm hospitality.
Learn more about Pensacola getaways.
(Many thanks to VisitPensacola.com for hosting my 2017 visit to the city and Foo Foo Fest!)