Festival Month Is Here

We’re gearing up for beaucoup festivals again, most notably the 26th annual French Quarter Festival and the 40th annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. There’s also the Louisiana Roadfood Festival at the beginning of the month that plans to create the world’s longest fried oyster po-boy on Bourbon Street. Tons of fun!

One wonders what the lousy economy is going to do to the festival season in Louisiana. Hoteliers have told me that French Quarter Festival weekend is very full, so that’s a good sign. Although French Quarter Fest has been touted (over and over again) by our redoubtable mayor that it’s his “parents’ favorite festival,” it’s becoming a local and an international favorite as well. Last year, French Quarter Festival organizers are quoted as saying the Fest attracted 435,000 to their one-weekend festival. Music at the French Quarter Fest is all Louisiana-based, well, almost all local. Typically there are several trad jazz bands that come into New Orleans from all over the world just to play at French Quarter Fest. It’s a model that would work extremely well for the Satchmo SummerFest in August—focus on Louis Armstrong and trad jazz and you’d have internationals flocking to the city to hear and play jazz in the city of its birth. But a concerted effort has to be made by F.Q.F. people and the city to get those international visitors here.

There are a few changes at French Quarter Fest this year: the Old Mint stages are reconfigured; the kids’ area by the aquarium is much larger and improved. There’s been a real effort to diminish some of the traffic in Woldenberg Park, and a lot more merchandise and beverage booths.

OffBeat contains the official French Quarter Festival schedule this year as an insert, and we included a “F.Q.F. IQ”. that gives you a bit more information on the musicians playing at this year’s French Quarter Fest (starting on page 24 of this issue). The magazine will also be available at all the official F.Q.F. information booths around the festival.

I’d love to hear your likes and dislikes about French Quarter Fest. Email them to me at janramsey@offbeat.com.

Of course, there’s the Big Poppa of them all that whets the appetites of music lovers worldwide: the Jazz Fest. There’s no denying that the Jazz Fest has had an enormous impact on New Orleans reputation as a music city. It’s second only to Mardi Gras in its economic impact, with French Quarter Fest not far behind. It’s made the careers and put money in the pockets of all local musicians because it’s exposed them to a new audience that’s purchased CDs, booked bands, and created a following for Louisiana music internationally. It gets the music community (including this publication) through the long, hot summers when visitors are usually thin and money is hard to come by.

Personally, I believe the Jazz Fest has had the most important impact ever on New Orleans’ music community. I don’t think anyone would argue with that assertion. But the French Quarter Festival—while a different kind of experience—is also in the top tier of New Orleans music events. I’m surprised that the two festivals don’t work more closely together to combine the whole damn month of April and make it “Festival Month” in New Orleans! They’re both great.