The rain put a damper on the first day of the Third annual Linney Breaux’s and Kroner & Baer Crawfish Festival in downtown Tahlequah Friday, but it didn’t kill the Cajun spirit.

With zydeco music playing in the background, workers donning beads and fleur-de-lis symbols, a spicy aroma filing the space outside of the pub, and crawdads boiling in pots, guests might have thought they were in Louisiana. And that’s exactly what Linney brothers were hoping for.

“We’re just trying to bring Louisiana to Oklahoma,” said Michael Linney, a Louisiana native. “Ever since we had the vision for doing this, we’ve just wanted to share what we experienced in our lives and that culture. It’s one of those things that’s a feel-good moment and we wanted to bring people together.”

Around this time of year, folks down south spend much of their time outdoors with friends and family as they peel away at the crustaceans. Michael and brother Brandon Linney own the only Cajun eatery in town, and have long enjoyed chowing down on the Creole delicacy.

It’s apparent that area locals and visitors have grown accustomed to the taste, too, and the Linney brothers upped the number of mudbugs they brought in this year to satisfy the cravings. Although the rain had already rolled in by the time the event started, a line had already formed in front of the crawfish tent, and guests were content with eating the crawfish in the rain.

“To be honest, I didn’t even expect the first initial wave like this with the thunderstorms moving into the area,” Brandon said. “So it was actually a surprise for us to have them already standing in line almost to the street.”

The festival has grown since its first year in 2019. The inaugural party saw 600 pounds of crawfish, and the next year, the Breaux’s brought in 1,600 pounds. This go-around, the crew is making sure nobody goes hungry, as they shipped in 3,000 pounds of the freshwater bugs.

On the back patio of Kroner & Baer Pub, local musicians jammed as diners wolfed down their food. Among the performers to plug in were Joe Mack, The Three F’s, Michael Rappe, Harley Tinsley, Blaine Bailey, and Casey West. And on the lawn behind the establishment, co-owner Chris Whytal brought in a mechanical bull.

Whytal said he hopes the rain clears out early Saturday, since they’re preparing for a large number of people to attend a festival unlike any around.

“It’s something different the town doesn’t normally have,” he said. “There’s not many crawfish festivals around – not in Oklahoma, at least. One of the biggest ones I ever went to was in Spring, Texas, and people flocked to it. I think that’s why people enjoy coming to this so much, and it only happens once a year.”

This year, the group chose to split the festival up to allow for more people, but to also spread out the number of patrons out due to COVID-19 concerns. As they were making preparations several months ago, the crew had no idea what this April would look like in terms of the pandemic.

We just weren’t sure where things were going to be at this point,” said Michael. “We knew vaccinations were rolling out, but we weren’t sure what this was going to look like. So we decided to go with a day and a half."

Check it out

Festivities will continue Saturday. Music and food servings will start around noon. Performing will be: Hannah Fell, Ahna Jennings, The Three F’s, Jadyn Dawson, Katelyn Myers, Maddie K, Colton Kro Dan Martin, RC and the Amber’s, and Doc Fell Co. For food, people have a chance to eat a crawfish meal that comes with corn and potatoes; a boiled shrimp meal; or boudin links. The show will go on until around 1 a.m. Sunday.

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