Welcome back to the third and final segment from my piece that I wrote for a writing class earlier this year. If you missed the first two posts click here and here for links to those posts. A big thanks for your continued feedback and comments about my posts, those help me keep the creative energy going during these challenging times. Here’s the rest of the story.
For the next three years, I went to Jazz Fest on my own until 2009 when I convinced my Traveling Partner to attend with me at least once. She agreed if I would go with her sometime to one day of the International Quilt Show she attends in Houston every October. It was a deal! And she’s been going with me ever since then. Just to prove that I went to the Quilt Show here are a few photos from the show I attended in November 2009.
When she was working full time, Jazz Fest was a fun way to relax, get some sun, and listen to some good music. She’s not the typical Jazz Fester, whooping and dancing up a storm. She’s content to sit in her chair and read a book listening to the music. Every once in a while, she’ll get up to stretch, watch the performer, or go check out the food, crafts, and cultural exhibits.
Besides taking her to the Fest, I showed her many of the local sites, like the alligators in the swamp, the sunset on the Mississippi River, and the Trump Hotel as it looked in 2009! I also took her on the backroads along the Mississippi west of New Orleans where we took a tour of the Destrehan Plantation. We were the only visitors on the tour so we got a lot of attention from the tour guide. That day was memorable because we had lunch at a roadside picnic area along the levee of the Mississippi. We stopped at a convenience store in a small river town where I bought a couple of the very best ever shrimp po’boys and a quart of fresh picked strawberries. It was a meal to remember all these years later!
We also checked out the historic site, the Dew Drop Hall near Mandeville on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. This hall, built in the late 1800’s, was gathering place and dance hall for African-Americans living nearby. Many of the jazz and blues musicians from New Orleans played at the Dew Drop, this continues even today with performances happening every few weeks.
A trip to New Orleans wouldn’t be the same without at least one visit to the French Quarter and Bourbon Street to see the sites and people watch. I can attest there is a surprise around every corner!
There’s visits to the old cemeteries scattered around the central part of town followed by sustenance at the Cafe Du Monde in the Quarter. There’s also a little time for religion at the St. Louis Cathedral where the street performers put on a really good show.
One thing my Traveling Partner doesn’t like about Jazz Fest is using the porta potties, especially later in the day. Early the first year she attended, she discovered a place on the Fair Grounds where women had access to regular toilets for the price of $1.00 donation. She was overjoyed at the prospect of never having to use those germy, stinky porta potties at Jazz Fest again.
Over the years we’ve seen some of the popular national acts like; Jimmy Buffet, Bruce Springsteen, Santana, Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Lenny Kravitz, Dave Matthews, Van Morrison, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, James Taylor, Tom Petty, Bonnie Raitt, Irma Thomas and others. Some of the local favorites we’ve seen are; Tab Benoit, Marcia Ball, Roy Rogers and the Delta Rhythm Kings, Neville Brothers, Trombone Shorty, Amanda Shaw and Cute Guys, C. J. Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band, Buckwheat Zydeco, Dr. John, and more. Not a bad sound anywhere on the Jazz Fest grounds.
Our routine stays much the same as before, set up our chairs, slather on some sun screen, make a beeline to the Crawfish Monica booth, drink a few beers, groove to the music, people watch, check out the cultural exhibits, take in a second-line parade, buy a t-shirt, head for the exit at the end of the day, and repeat.
If either of us get’s lost, we meet at the flagpole on the center of the grounds.
In 2014 after my Traveling Partner retired, our travel routine changed. Instead of flying to New Orleans or Gulfport, we trailed our travel trailer south of Madison until we reached the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain where we camp in Fontainebleau State Park. This change of our lodging location requires us to make the 25-mile trip across the Causeway into New Orleans. It does take us directly to Veterans Boulevard and back on our regular route to Jazz Fest.
We still do two days of Fest with a day off in between, this is especially important as our age advances. One year, we stayed for both weekends and enjoyed exploring the area beyond our regular favorites. In addition, we’ve taken in many of the sites in between Madison and New Orleans such as the Vicksburg National Military Park, Memphis, Paducah, and Springfield, Illinois.
In a couple of months (Note: this piece was written before the invasion of the corona virus), we’ll hitch the Minnie (our trailer) to the Red Rider (our tow vehicle) and make our way down the Mississippi to New Orleans for the 20th time. Last year, at the end of the 50th anniversary of Jazz Fest, I declared this year, 2020, would be our last soiree to the event. No, it’s not getting old. But I am and so are the musicians from my youth. Sure there are many great performers filling in behind those that made their mark in the 50’s and 60’s but to me it’s not the same. It’s been a good ride; a lot of fun and many good memories were made over the years. And I have a collection of t-shirts, caps, and thousands of photos to remember all the good times. We’ll make our way back to New Orleans from time to time to take in a club act and enjoy some authentic Cajun food, tasty crawfish, and a shrimp boil. Or maybe I’ll change my mind come next January!
An update: this week it was announced that Jazz Fest is postponed until April 22 through May 2, 2021 after originally rescheduling for this fall. At this point my plans are to attend my 20th Jazz Fest next year and then call it quits. I think I’ll take up an interest more fitting for a person my age! I’ll let you know when I figure that out!
Thanks for sharing this experience with me, I hope you enjoyed the story as much as I did writing it earlier this year. Next week come back for a surprise because it will be a surprise for me too!
Until then, happy virtual travels!