Chuck Fest: An Impaired Retrospective

By Warren Bujol and Tyler Walker, but mostly Tyler

Marvelous Wonderfuls Land

Personally, I believe our city deserves to have nice things. Yeah, maybe we have irregularly tall curbs, and sometimes we leave the toilet seat up, but overall, we're pretty good people. No one is perfect. I left this town as a teenager. At the time I could never have imagined that I would return here to raise a family; we don't even have a Whataburger anymore*. Yet here I am. My perspective has matured (ever so slightly) and I realize now that I never fully appreciated what Lake Charles has to offer or what it stands for. This city is more unique than any other city I have ever lived in, and I've lived all over this country/world. It isn't until we, or at least I, spend time away from our home that we realize how good we had it. We've all heard the complaints: "This place sucks," "I can't wait to move away," "Nice tattoo, asshole," but what gives us the right to complain? Why do we choose to belittle our home instead of taking ownership? Why don't we make this place the place we'd rather be? Probably because whining is much easier. Luckily for us we have a few people who are willing to bear the burden of transforming our community. Just ask the Michael Krajiceks, Jody Taylors, Braylin Jenkins-s, Calvin Tylers, Charles Talens, and Dave Evans-s (and many more.) There are people who care enough to not only dismiss the nay-saying majority, but to sacrifice time, money and effort to help this little wonderland evolve into the Marvelous Wonderful-land it should be. 

The Core of Our Community

When we think of the four things that have always been at the core of our community, the things that have always found a way to unite us, what comes to mind? Scientology, backgammon, casinos and foreign films, of course. I'm kidding. It's music, art, food and drinking. We really did have a Scientology church here at one time, though. I guess, statistically, in a town our size, you're bound to have a few Sci-fi fans. Dave Evans, owner of Luna and Luna Live/lover of music, decided it was about damn time we had a festival we could call our own. He took music, art, food and drinks and smashed them together (musicartfooddrink) into one big, reoccurring event. He called it Chuck Fest.  

Chuck Fest No. 1

I remember a time when there was no Chuck Fest. I don't like talking about it, so I won't. I'll talk about my first Chuck Fest. The day started normally enough; I skimmed through my 1997 print edition of Guinness Book of World Records to find some dreams to destroy, Googled the laws about owning a pet tiger within city limits and checked Facebook. I had heard of Chuck Fest only a few days before, but being that I wasn't going to be online tiger shopping any time soon, I figured I'd give it a go. My first stop was Luna. It was noon so I ordered the Red-fish Capricorn and a double Sailor Jerry and Coke. I don't know if you've tried the Red-fish Capricorn, but let's just say I have never tried anything else on the menu. I've never had a reason to. I could hear the band on the outdoor stage just down the road. I believe it was Jazz, but it was about a year ago so I have no idea. Whatever it was, I remember it complimented the rum well.    

It was incredible. Kids were getting their faces painted, people brought pets, local artists were arting, all to the subtle soundtrack of live and local music. The day was literally one giant, happy, fuzzy-memory. Sadly, I can't remember many details other than the Red-fish Capricorn, Sailor Jerry doubles, Large Marge, Rootbeer and Mermentau, and Dark Side of the Lake, so I contacted Tyler Walker and asked him about his first Chuck Fest experience. Here's what he said:  

Tyler Walker
Tyler Walker on the left. On right: Not-Derek Williams

Tyler Walker on the left. On right: Not-Derek Williams

On a Mission From God (And Dave)
Dave on right.

Dave on right.

In July of last year I convinced my friend Derek to quit his job and start a company with me. We had no savings, no prospects and no real idea what we were doing, but by August we were meeting with the handful of contacts we were able to dupe into taking our calls. One of those contacts was Dave Evans, proprietor of Luna Bar and Grill and Luna Live. We had known Dave for years from our ill-fated music careers, and even produced a few award-winning billboards for him during our time at a local outdoor advertising company. We went into the meeting expecting to get work doing gig posters, but left tasked with bringing Dave’s secret-longtime-dream to fruition: a kick-ass, day-long block party celebrating us - the eclectic, eccentric, remaining residents of the Chuck.  

All Dave had was a name, “Chuck Fest.” (Like Lake Chuck. Charles… Chuck… Get it? Christ.) The rest was kind of up to us. Oh, and it had to coincide with the 10-year anniversary of Luna Bar and Grill, which gave us approximately 8 weeks to bring everything together. In retrospect, I have no idea why we agreed to even help. I think we were just very excited that someone was taking our “company” seriously. I mean, he said he’d pay us in actual money. We spent the next few weeks stumbling blindly through red tape and trying to be taken seriously by potential sponsors. Understandably, not many people were willing to back a festival in its first year. So we managed our expectations, got a lot of stuff donated and did the rest ourselves. Make it work, kids- that’s the real take-away here.  


Lake Charles Doesn't Suck, You Do...

As an unathletic, artsy-fartsy kid growing up in the South, I was no stranger to the sentiment that “Lake Charles sucks.” Kids with futures left and everyone else went to work at the plants. Art died here. Attempts at forward progress were met with everything from eye-rolling to outright hostility - (like the time we planned that all ages show at a local park and, despite having all the necessary documentation, were threatened with being arrested. Or that time I took part in a public art project where artists were given statues to paint and several of the statues were stolen and destroyed. Or any of the Sunday afternoon all-ages shows that got shut down for noise complaints. But I digress). We fully expected an uphill battle. We expected a fight. But something’s changed recently. Maybe it’s not even recently; maybe I had just grown apathetic like everyone else who’s left here. No one stood in our way. The Man didn’t try to stop us. Quite the contrary. Everyone we spoke to in local government was immediately on board. One of the forces-for-good we met in our misadventures in event planning was Lori Marinovich. Lori is the Director of the Downtown Development Authority and hugged me the first time we met. She’s worked for the city for over a decade (probably longer but I can’t be bothered to remember) and has been quietly toiling away to improve the quality of life for residents without any of them knowing. Next time you’re strolling along the lakefront promenade, enjoying a snow cone, listening to a street performer, think of Lori. She was instrumental in our success and did everything in her power to clear our way forward. Louisiana’s thriving tourism industry and its burgeoning film industry have started to convince the red-meat-eatin’ red-state-livin’ SWLA that artistic endeavors are valuable. We weren’t met with any opposition from the powers that be. It was the jaded youngsters of the Lake City who were the most difficult to convince that Chuck Fest could actually happen- the unexpected consequence from decades of cultural shittiness. It was soul-crushing to be confronted with such apathy from our peers who had been burned one too many times to give any shits about our little festival. “Meh, that’s cool,” sighed the malaised masses. “We’ll believe it when we see it.” So we see’d it to them.  

Chuck Fest Parade!

As I parked my car the morning of the festival, I was informed by our security that a parade was scheduled to roll through our festival grounds for no good damn reason. The next hour was spent literally running (on foot) between Ryan St. and the Civic Center trying to reroute a parade no one cared about so my vendors could set up. No dice. Despite our permitting months ahead of time, remnants of the Good Ol’ Boy System still remain, and at approximately 11:00 a.m. a dozen or so emergency response vehicles rolled through Chuck Fest, sirens blaring, throwing candy and pamphlets to no one in particular (literally the only people on the street were Chuck Fest staff.) It could have soured the entire day, but we had too much to do to dwell on it. We cleaned up their bullshit and went about setting up. Some of the Emergency Responders even ended up coming back and partying with us. Chuck Fest was a Good Feels Fest. No one was unhappy and, if they were, they were given Chuck Punch (provided by Bayou Rum) until no one could understand what they were saying anymore. The art vendors had nothing but warm and fuzzy things to say, many of the food vendors sold out early and not-so-reluctantly switched into festival-goer mode. Everyone was happy. Except that one drunk lady whose kids were breaking bottles in the streets**. 

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*Lafayette has three (3).
**We yelled at her kids so Momma Bear yelled at Derek.

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