This week we continue on our journey from Madison by way of Paducah to the New Orleans area where our objective was to attend the 50th New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, commonly known as Jazz Fest. We made our way from Paducah through the skinny, long states of Kentucky and Tennessee, past Memphis into Mississippi. We spent the night in a state campground south of Memphis that is close to I-55, we’ve stayed there a number times either coming or going from New Orleans.
The next morning we got an early start so as to arrive by early afternoon at Fontainebleau State Park near Mandeville, Louisiana on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. We drove through some heavy rain but as soon as we got to the campground it quit, the sun came out and stayed out during our entire stay. We were soon on our way across the Causeway to retrieve our son-in-law from the airport. He flew in to attend Jazz Fest with us. Our first stop was for some dinner at one of my favorites, Don’s Seafood Hut. We feasted on fresh shrimp, crawfish and gumbo, mmmm!
After a good nights sleep, we readied ourselves for a full day of fun at Jazz Fest. This is my 19th year in a row of attendance at this iconic music festival so I’m familiar with where to park, maneuver around the grounds and etc. But what happened after we passed through the entry gates and security was totally new to me and I take it some other patrons too. We had to go through a secondary security check where I was stopped because I had my big boy camera hanging around my neck. I was told that large cameras (with removable, adjustable lens) were against the rules, no where did I see this “new” rule on the website when preparing. I asked for a supervisor to explain and he told me it was the times, etc. I later learned this was a line of BS. I had to take my camera back to my vehicle and convince the entry gate supervisor I was denied entry at the second security check after the camera passed through the first check. He took sympathy on me so I was allowed to reenter without purchasing another ticket at $85 a pop! As I was reentering, my traveling partner and son-in-law both texted me that there were lots of patrons with cameras similar to mine. So when I went through the secondary screening again, I had few more words with the supervisor who said he was only following the “rules.” When we came back for our second day of Jazz Fest, I talked with the entry gate supervisor stating I couldn’t find anything that prevented me from bringing in my camera. She apologized and stated that I was one of many “victims” of misinformation and I should have been allowed to bring in my camera. Not wanting to have a repeat, I left my camera in my vehicle for the second day. When we got to the secondary screening I saw the same supervisor that prevented me from entering previously and asked if I could take his photo. He smiled, I took the photo then proceeded to let him know what I thought of his so called “new rules.” He told me that “they” changed the rules, another line of BS. I’ll end this vent with the photo I took of the supervisor, if you see him just smile but don’t take his word for anything!
While this unfortunate event really irritated the photographer in me, I decided to be positive and enjoy the event that I traveled a long way to attend. My routine after setting up chairs is to buy a supply of beer and then purchase my favorite food on the festival grounds, Crawfish Monica, pictured below. That and a little hot sauce to spice it up and a Miller Lite is enough to put one in the frame of mind for some good music!
The first day of Fest we saw a number of good acts include one from my favorite blues player, Tab Benoit. He did a rocking good show on the Acura stage. I should mention here that there are 12 or 13 stages on the Jazz Fest grounds playing all types of music; rock, blues, congo, zydeco, folk, gospel and of course jazz.
The last performance of the day on the Acura stage was Santana. Wow! What a great show he put on for the big crowd. For his encore, he brought on Trombone Shorty and they played until almost 7:30 PM. The music is supposed to stop at 7 PM but they just kept on playing and the crowd enjoyed every minute! I thought they were going to unplug the electricity to get him to quit!
That was Friday, Saturday we took off from Jazz Fest, too much for a couple of old people! Instead we did some of the New Orleans sights such as the French Market, the river walk along the Mississippi, Jackson Square and Saint Louis Cathedral. It was more crowded than we’ve experienced in recent years, glad to see that tourism has rebounded.
There are street performers all around Jackson Square. This guy was amazing, painted in gold and didn’t move or flinch the whole time I was watching. He’s considered one of the top 10 street performers in the French Quarter.
We were fortunate to catch a performance by the Dragon Masters Showcase, three guys that do some entertaining acrobatic moves as well as a lot of comedy. They say they’ve been doing this for 30 years, I can’t verify that statement but regardless they were fun to watch.
We spent our Saturday evening with our friend, Iris, who lives in Covington. She invited us to meet some of her friends and attend an art walk. Afterwards, we were introduced to Just Chillin Sweet Treats. This is a popular place that serves about 100 flavors of snowballs, 30 flavors of ice cream and any number of combinations of snowball and ice cream flavors for what they call a stuffed snowball. I think we found a new addition to our annual trips to Louisiana!
Sunday at Jazz Fest was another fine day. We saw Irma Thomas, the new queen of R&B; Bonnie Raitt, the blues master; and ended the day with an outstanding set by Van Morrison.
I’ve seen Van Morrison a few times before and thought he was good but this performance was the best I’ve seen so far. He’s a guy that just performs, not much communication with the audience. I found out that he has suffered in the past from stage fright, hard to understand from someone that has so much songwriting talent. He performed his break out song from 1964 “Gloria” and his 1967 hit “Brown Eyed Girl.” The video is a snippet of his rendition of Gloria, I read that he almost always never performs a song the same way twice. Not bad for a 73 year old guy, keep going Van the Man!
We had a nice visit during breaks with our lovely neighbors at the Acura Stage. Ryan was in the Marine Corps at the time of 9/11 and was subject to stop-loss when his active duty enlistment was up. This happens when the military can prevent you from separating from active duty during times of high need or speciality. Lots of folks don’t know that at the end of active duty, members of the military are placed in the inactive reserves for a period of time subject to call up if needed. He said he didn’t mind because he had experience where the newbies didn’t, he was afraid they would get hurt. He did a couple of tours in the Middle East, thanks for your service.
A couple of parting shots, one of necessity and the other for cuteness, you decide!
The trail home from New Orleans was uneventful except that we observed a lot of water standing in the fields between here and the Gulf. Some might not even be planted this year.
Up next, check back next week and we’ll both be surprised!
Until then, happy travels!