This afternoon, the French Quarter Festival announced that approximately 574,000 people attended the four-day festival, which this year included an expanded “Lagniappe Thursday.” This ritual of releasing the festival’s attendance estimates has always been an odd one because to anyone who attends the festival, two things are clear: 1) That it’s exceedingly unlikely that there is a legitimate method for determining an attendance figure with any accuracy, and 2) That there are so many people at the festival that it is an unquestionable success, regardless of the number.
The number’s up from last year’s estimated 533,000 people, but no matter what the figure, there were people everywhere, from a family tailgating in front of the ferry entrance to people hanging out on Elysian Fields. Decatur Street was a pedestrian mall and the Moon Walk was a test of patience. Businesses that need hard numbers to rationalize sponsoring the festival place too much belief in the stability of numbers and miss the big picture—that a broad cross-section of the city’s population passed through the Quarter this weekend and were exposed to the sponsors. The festival was certainly a musical success, and it’s hard to imagine a measure whereby it wasn’t a business success.