2016 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

Hey everyone,

Thanks for reading my blogposts and the kind comments on my Ghana articles. It was a great experience and hope I can contribute again in the future.

Since 2001 (16 years by my count) I’ve made the trek from Madison down to New Orleans for the annual Jazz and Heritage Festival, otherwise known as JazzFest. It’s held the last weekend in April and the first weekend in May on the Racetrack located in City Park in New Orleans. There is all kinds of music in addition to jazz, blues, rock, zydeco, folk, gospel, hip hop, so there’s something for just about everyone. For me, it’s a chance to thaw out from the cold northern winter and to see and listen to some of my favorite performers live and in person. Over the years, I’ve seen Jimmy Buffet a few times, Bruce Springsteen twice, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Santana, BB King as well as other well known groups. Also, JazzFest is a chance to sample some performers that I didn’t know about and a very few that I don’t care if I hear again!

The past three years, we went to New Orleans by way of Paducah, Kentucky so Donna could take in part of the American Quilt Society annual quilt show. It’s only fair since JazzFest is my thing and quilts are her deal! So I get to hang out with the few other men that accompany their wives, sometimes at a tavern or sometimes just walking around passing the time. Here are a few photos I took this year along the water front.IMG_0618IMG_0620

This photo is included to show the repurposing of a vacant building in downtown Paducah. They have fabric shops pop up all over the city during quilt week. And the word “sale” brings the quilt ladies off the street!IMG_0616

From Paducah we head south through Memphis and the long state of Mississippi arriving in Mandeville, LA where we set up camp in the state park. Yes, we’ve towed our trailer down for the last three years. We do have to drive the 24 miles on the Causeway every morning across Lake Pontchartrain to get into New Orleans and JazzFest. This year we went on Saturday and Sunday (April 23-24) because I wanted to see Tab Benoit, one of my favorite blues guitarists who performed on Saturday. It was a mob scene, over the years there has been some huge crowds but this was the biggest by far. Tab was playing the Gentilly Stage where Van Morrison was the evening headliner. The Acura (big rock) stage was featuring Pearl Jam so huge crowds all around, not going on Saturday again unless there is a got to see performer. Between Tab and Van Morrison was a band I hadn’t heard of before making their first JazzFest appearance, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats from Denver. A great sound and I expect they’ll be back on a regular basis. Here’s a few photos of the Saturday crowd and Van Morrison on the big screen.Jazz Fest 2016-1009Jazz Fest 2016-1040Jazz Fest 2016-1031

Back at the Fest on Sunday, we set up at the Acura stage, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were the headliners. It was crowded but not nearly like Saturday. The Peppers were ok, some of their popular songs were well done but some stuff was really head banging so we bailed a little early on them and took in the blues tent to round out the evening. Following are crowd photos from Sunday.

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Between acts, I find it fun to watch the crowd while Donna reads or does Zentangles. This group of Fest goers was trying to figure which way to go!

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In addition to the music, there are Louisiana heritage displays, demonstrations, and high end art work for sale. Here’s a few of the folks doing demos of their crafts, top is traditional African-American hair styles and in the bottom photo, the guy is making custom staircase spindles.

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Deceased Fest performers and supporters are honored with these painted murals around the Fest grounds. BB King and Allan Toussaint will be added next year.

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Also while wandering around the grounds, one might bump into a second line parade along with folks following and dancing along. Photos are always a challenge but here’s a couple from this year that I like, up close and personal. Note the colorful and extensive handiwork in the regalia.

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The food at JazzFest is great and so much variety. No hotdogs or hamburgers, no, no. It’s all local traditional dishes, lots of ways to include crawfish, pie, bread, beignets to name a few. Since I’ve been going to JazzFest, I start the day off with a dish of Crawfish Monica and a beer, the breakfast for crazy Fest goers!

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After keeping hydrated with water and beer, one must trot off to the facilities. Best to get there early because sometimes there’s a line!

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After a long day at JazzFest, we usually head back to the camper for a good night’s sleep. At least once during our stay we’ll get up early and stop by the French Market down in the French Quarter. A few years ago, we tried out the Killer Tomato Seasoning from this booth in the Market. It’s great not only on tomatoes but all kinds of vegetables, we have to replenish our supply every year. Check them out at frenchmarketproduce.com. I’m serious, you’ll be hooked!

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Each year, I also add to my JazzFest hat pin collection from the Oscar of New Orleans booth. They are all hand made in very funky, colorful designs. Here’s a link if you are interested, oscarofneworleans.com.

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When we are in Louisiana, we really enjoy eating our fill of the fresh gulf shrimp, one of my favorite foods. The flavor is superb especially with some nice Cajun spices, not to much but just right. Can taste it as I write as I write this post! Here’s before and after photos of one of our evening meals.

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So that’s JazzFest my friends; music, food, beer, and lots of fun! Try it sometime, nojazzfest.com.

Next up, England and Scotland. Stay tuned.

Tom

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