The grand French Quarter Festival is here once again to celebrate New Orleans jazz, art, and food in the largest free music festival in the United States.
“This festival represents all the local flavors,” singer-songwriter Lynn Drury told ABC. “It’s not just the brass bands or tra jazz, what New Orleans is mainly known for. It’s a chance for me, too, to move my sound that I call ‘Mississippi grit, New Orleans groove,’ before a lot of people.”
Jazzy-soul singer Michaela Harrison added, “We’re exposed to so many people, especially festival producers from other places who come here to scout talent.”
The four-day festival began as a small neighborhood festival 31 years ago now draws hundreds of thousands of festival goers from near and far for family-friendly entertainment. The festival has come a long way since its opening in 1984, when jazz clarinetist Tim Laughlin says that “You could shoot a cannon down Bourbon Street and not hit anyone.” WWLTV reports that in 2013, The French Quarter Festival drew in 560,000 people with an economic boost of $246 million.
Although the totals aren’t in yet for this year, Kelly Schulz, spokeswoman for the New Orleans Convention and Tourism Bureau, said that hotel occupancy was above 90 percent.
“It’s safe to say we will sell out the city,” Schulz said before the event started.
The French Quarter Festival is a tremendous opportunity for local artists to sell their work. Artist vendors arrive three hours early to compete for a space in the 16 block French Quarter. The spots are first-come, first-serve because the city issues 200 artist permits but there are only 88 spots in the French Market, according to ABC.
The music lineup for the festival this year includes Grammy award-winning pianist Dr. John, Davell Crawford, “The Piano Prince of New Orleans” and 102-year-old jazz trumpeter Lionel Ferbos. The Dixie Cups will be celebrating their 50th anniversary and The Dukes of Dixieland will be celebrating their 40th anniversary. Dr. John is returning this year to French Quarter Festival for the first time since 1987.
The French Quarter Festival also offers many special events – a 5k race, a crawfish eating contest, free dance lessons, face painting and other activities for children, and a parade. The festival also includes short films, photo and art exhibitions, and even opera. The French Quarter Festival closes out with “Dance at Dusk” with music from the 30s, 40s, and 50s.
The 31st French Quarter Festival began last Thursday, April 10th, and runs until April 13th.
photo credit: Derek Bridges via Flickr
Related Article: John Legend To Play Winnipeg Jazz Fest