New Orleans JazzFest v2023 – Part 1

Today’s post is 1490 words, 22 photos, 1 video, a 9 minute read. Enjoy!

Hi everyone,

After spending a couple of days at Pickwick Landing and Shiloh National Military Park, we were on the move again. We traveled the full length of Mississippi (about 375 miles) to Gulfport where we spent a day with my sister and brother-in-law.


I didn’t know that Gulfport is the second largest city in Mississippi, after the state capital, Jackson. With a population of over 70,000 (the greater area metro area population is over 400,000), the economy of Gulfport is diversified with military bases, gambling, retail, and tourism employing large numbers of people. The Gulfport/Biloxi white sand beaches attract visitors year around. Because of its position on the Gulf of Mexico, Gulfport is subject to damaging tropical storms, high winds, hurricanes, and storm surges. Hurricanes Camille (1969) and Katrina (2005) both left their mark on the city resulting in widespread damage. Fortunately, my sister purchased a home on the north side of Gulfport, beyond the reach of storm surges.

We had a fun visit in Gulfport but it was time to head west.

Fontainebleau State Park, Mandeville, Louisiana

We hitched up the Minnie to the Red Rover and made the 70 mile drive to Mandeville, LA where we would lodge for the next five nights at Fontainebleau State Park. We’ve stayed here several times over the past ten years. It’s quiet with roomy campsites and all the amenities we need: nice showers and a laundry facility. Fontainebleau is located on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain on the site of an old sugar plantation. In addition to a large campground, there are hiking trails, a paved bike path, abundant picnic areas, a swimming beach, kayaking, boating, and fishing. The daily admission is only $3 per person with kids and seniors over 62 free. 

Staying on the north shore meant we had to take the 23 mile-long Lake Pontchartrain Causeway to New Orleans. The Causeway is one of the longest bridges over water in the world. There are two lanes of traffic going in each direction. During our three trips to New Orleans, we did see the 65 mile-per-hour speed limit being enforced. The cash toll is $5 and is collected in one direction on the Mandeville or north entrance to the Causeway. It took us about an hour to make the drive from Fontainebleau to the New Orleans Fair Grounds and Race Course where JazzFest is held.

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

JazzFest as it’s commonly known has been celebrating music and local culture since 1970. While the first festival only drew 350 people, the 2023 version drew an estimated 460,000 Festers. It was in 2001, the first year I attended, that JazzFest attendance was the largest, 625,000. The first two years, 1970 and 1971, the festival was held on Congo Square just outside the French Quarter. The move to the Fairgrounds allowed the promoters to greatly expand to two weekends and more stages. It goes to show that if you build something people need or want, they will come. This year there were 13 stages where performances were held through out the day. In addition to jazz, there’s rock, funk, zydeco, blues, gospel, folk, rap, pow wow, and second line parades. There’s even a kids tent. Plus, there’s a Louisiana Folklife Village with local crafts and trades demonstrations and an area where artists from all over the country sell their unique artwork. There’s a lot to see and do in the eight hours JazzFest is open.

I should mention the gates open at 11 AM and the music ends at 7 PM. On the first day, we arrived at about 10:30. After parking ($30 for the day), we got in line for security screening and having our tickets scanned. The line to get in was long, here’s what it looked like.

While we were standing in line we chatted with this fellow. He’s been coming to JazzFest for many years. He’s a local (it was locals day at JazzFest, with a significant discount on tickets) and is acquainted with many of the performers. He was dressed for the occasion, it was a hot day with a high of 85. I should mention, his pants matched his shirt. An interesting, nice fella.

After clearing security, we walked about a half mile from the entrance to the infield of the racetrack were set up at the Festival Stage where the headliners perform. The first group was already playing. Did I mention the line at the entrance was long and slow? It didn’t take long for the grounds to be covered with chairs, blankets, and tarps. This was the view from where we were setup.
After getting settled, I went to one of the beer tents for my daily ration (3) and add some ice to my small cooler. We could bring in six sealed water bottles, I usually put them in the freezer the night before as another way to keep both the water and beer cold all day.

After the beer and ice, I detoured over to the food vendor that sells Crawfish Monica, my favorite dish on the grounds.

The creamy sauce is made of butter, onions, spices, cream, and crawfish tails then stirred into cooked rotini pasta. It is so good. I start the day at JazzFest with a dish of Crawfish Monica and a beer. I feel alive and satisfied!

This year, JazzFest went cashless. Apparently, there were beaucoup problems the first weekend. We went the second weekend and everything seemed to go smoothly. The one caveat, from my perspective, it’s easy to overspend. Just tap your card, add a tip, and take the product. It’s faster than cash and there’s no receipt to keep track of purchases until you check the credit card account. Then it’s too late.

People Watching

One of the things I enjoy about venues like JazzFest is the people watching. Not far away, I noticed this fella wearing a shirt with advertising. I think he was from Texas. After a couple of his friends showed up, the second photo shows why they were grooving to the music! By the way, I was using a telephoto lens.

Not far away this woman was trying to be discreet under the cover of an umbrella. 

In the other direction, this group of women were having a great time with their bubble machine. One of the things I like about JazzFest is the diversity of people. It takes all kinds to make this world an interesting place.

Meet Isabelle Cossart. She and her granddaughter were set up behind us. My Traveling Partner and I enjoyed chatting with her between acts. I snapped this photo as she was taking a photo of one of the acts. Isabella is a tour guide in New Orleans, check out her tours by clicking here

In front of us was a large group of locals. One mom brought a new baby. That baby slept most of the day, didn’t even wake up during the loud music or for photos. Very cute.

These kids entertained themselves with a game of Uno while their parents rocked to the music.

The Headliners

There were five acts at the Festival Stage. We enjoyed Cowboy Mouth with their alternative rock and the loud, maniacal style of the lead singer, Fred LeBlanc. This group was followed by Rockin’ Dopsie and the Zydeco Twisters playing spirited music from deep in the bayou.

Buddy Guy, the 86 year-old blues great from Chicago, got the crowd rocking with his strong and energetic performance. It was a great set.

Carlos Santana played and sang for 100 minutes. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand with some of his standards as well as some new stuff. Santana is 75 and had heart surgery in 2021 but he’s still got the groove. His wife, Cindy Blackman, is the drummer in his band. She did a drum solo that lasted about ten minutes, it was awesome.

Between acts, I walk the Fairgrounds either looking for food or the restrooms. Occasionally, I encountered a second-line parade with their brass band and elaborate costumes.

Near the Louisiana Folklife Village there was a cutout where people could have their photos taken. So I took one! I have no idea who these people were but they look like they are having fun.

Near the end of the day, we ran out of water. It’s important to keep hydrated when sitting out in the sun all day. Here’s the line to buy water.

On one side of the water stand, daiquiris were popular. On the other side, Wild Turkey wasn’t as popular but there were folks giving it a try.

In recent years, JazzFest shines a light on the music and musicians from another country and culture. This year featured one close to home from the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. Whereever the performers from Puerto Rico appeared, the music and crowd was lively and beat strong.

I’ll end with this short video from Santana to give you a flavor of the atmosphere at JazzFest. We were near the walkway, that’s why people were moving around.


That concludes the first day of JazzFest. Stay tuned for Part 2 next week.

Until then, happy travels!




5 thoughts on “New Orleans JazzFest v2023 – Part 1

  1. Hello Tom,

    I was trying to find your contact information, as we found your website researching Manhaven, ND. We noticed in your Manhaven article from several years ago it mention contacting you if there was interest in buying property. We wanted to inquire about it. Look forward to hearing from you. Thanks.

    1. Hi Paige, thanks for checking out my blog. I’m curious, what is your interest in Mannhaven? I have 8 lots in the townsite, at this time there is virtually no easy access to the property except by walking or boat. Let know if you are still interested.

      1. Will be working in the area for awhile, so was looking for things to do. We came across Manhaven and seemed like a remote area to get away, camp and explore.

        Yes, still interested. What size are the lots for sale? And how much are you asking?

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