Tomorrow (Monday May 29) is Memorial Day here in the U.S. This is a day set aside to remember and honor those to gave their lives while serving in the military. Decorating the graves of soldiers is an ancient custom and became an annual activity after the end of the War between the States. The common name began as Decoration Day with Memorial Day becoming more common after World War II. It’s a day of parades, observances, picnics and is often considered the first day of summer. Anyway, it’s a good time to remember those men and women who fought for our freedoms. Thank you.
As I mentioned last week, this is the 17th year that I’ve made the trip to New Orleans for the Jazz and Heritage Festival. It’s always the last full weekend in April and the first weekend in May. When I was working, it was a respite from work and a time to thaw out from the seemingly long winter! Now that I’m retired and my traveling partner attends the Fest with me, we take the travel trailer down making it an 8-10 day trip often stopping off to see the sites along the 1100 mile one way trip.
The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, commonly known as simply JazzFest, began its run in 1970 to celebrate the music, history, and culture of New Orleans and Louisiana. When I tell my acquaintances that I’m going to JazzFest, they think that it’s jazz all the time. The JazzFest celebrates music of all kinds: rock, blues, gospel, zydeco, cajun, country, bluegrass, folk, rap, and everything in between. There’s also traditional, contemporary and local arts and crafts on display and purchase and the food can’t be beat. There is no fair or carnival food available, no hot dogs or hamburgers and fries. There’s everything crawfish, shrimp and crab; there’s the po’boys of all types; soul food; and lots of other great, local dishes. I could go just for the food and it would be worth the trip!
Now for a little tour around the grounds, the stages, and the people. Since 1972 JazzFest has been held on the New Orleans Fairgrounds and Racetrack located about 10 minutes drive from the French Quarter. There is a single fee to enter the grounds giving Fest goers access to all the stages. If you are meeting someone on the Festival grounds, the place to meet is at the center at the flag pole.
Note the Cuban flag that’s flying on the pole. For the past several years, music from around the world has been highlighted with a special venue, food, displays and performances. This year, music and musicians from Cuba were the focus. This music proved to be very popular as evidenced by the large crowds as they performed.
As I mentioned earlier, attendees can migrate from stage to stage as they please or set up camp at one stage venturing out for food, beer, check out the crafts or for other venues to hear a favorite performer. We prefer the latter, here are few views from our “camp” spot.
It’s always fun to check out the other stages too. There’s always a lot of fun being had at the Fais Do Do stage that features traditional and modern zydeco and cajun music.
Then there are some of the other stages such as Jazz and Gospel tents. The gospel tent is probably one of the liveliest spots on the Fairgrounds while the jazz tent is more mellow and laid back. Depending on your mood or preference both serve a purpose and have great music.
A couple of the performers we enjoyed on one of our days at the Fest were Buddy Guy (top photo) and Clarence “Frogman” Henry in the bottom photo. The Frogman at age 80 still has it, hitting both the high and low notes when singing his signature cover of the song, “Ain’t Got No Home.” And Buddy Guy, age 81, has more energy than most performers half his age and slings a mean guitar.
Every day of JazzFest there are a several second line parades with participants dancing to the brass band, twirling a parasol or waving a handkerchief. It often called a jazz funeral procession without a body! Some wear traditional, elaborate costumes while others, well don’t wear much at all! Here are a couple of photos from the parades I ran across.
I could go on and on about the food, I probably have in previous posts about JazzFest. This brief view is about the sno-balls, a popular New Orleans confection, available at a couple of stands around the grounds. They are made with shaved ice. sweetened with cane sugar, and the flavor of choice added. The ice is fine and fluffy and absorbs the sugar and flavorings. On a hot day, it’s a great way to cool down and enjoy a delicious local treat. As an aside, the greater New Orleans area has many sno-ball stands usually open from March to October, much like the Dairy Queen’s in the northern climes.
When wandering the grounds, one can’t miss the interesting contemporary crafts. There are some very unique and creative items for sale.
So where do you “go” when at JazzFest? I mean where do you “go” as in to relieve yourself?!! Fortunately, there are lots of choices of those signature blue porta potties! Here’s a view from the line. One hint, they are more presentable earlier in the day!
Then there’s the people watching. One realizes that it takes all kinds, it would be boring if we were all alike. The following is a sample.
I always enjoy watching other people taking photos so I decided to take some photos of them taking photos!
This year there were more younger kids at the Fest. On one of days, this family set up in front of us and managed to keep two young boys occupied for the whole day. This fella entertained himself by tromping around in his dad’s mud boots.
And this young child was enjoying his first Fest!
Then there are these neighbors that had a twister game with brave Festers stopping by to try it out. Always fun to watch especially those who’ve had a few adult beverages!
Many Fest goers bring flags to help their friends find them at the crowded venues. Always some interesting and creative flags to entertain during music sets. This one says a lot about the atmosphere of JazzFest. Iko, Iko is a traditional New Orleans song first made famous by the Dixie Cups and later by Dr. John. The words of the song (in French Creole) describe a clash between two tribes of Mardi Gras Indians. Linguists and historians have had a heyday trying to figure out the history of the chorus that everyone from the New Orleans seems to know.
“My grand-ma and your grand-ma were sit-tin’ by the fire.
My grand-ma told your grand-ma: “I’m gon-na set your flag on fire.
Jock-a-mo fee-no ai na-né, jock-a-mo fee na-né
I bet-cha five dol-lars he’ll kill you dead, jock-a-mo fee na-né
Jock-a-mo fee-no ai na-né, jock-a-mo fee na-né
Sit-tin’ by the fire. – My flag boy told
Your flag boy: “I’m gon-na set your flag on fire.
Hope you enjoyed the words and photos of JazzFest v.2017. My goal is to continue attending until the 50th then figure out something else to do the last week of April and first week of May every year.
Until next time, travel safe.