A lil’ over a year ago I started this blog (or journal) to share the things happening in my life. It just so happened that we had recently moved to Louisiana and I had created a NOLA Bucketlist to give me an excuse to explore this new city. What I have discovered over the course of the last two years of living “in the south” is that I have fallen in love with New Orleans! Every time I come to the city I am bathed in a world of tradition, music, food, art, and history…it is a truly unique place!
Enter the “New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival” – a 10-day music event which dates back to 1970 – and one of the top items on my NOLA Bucketlist.
Jazz Fest has a rich history – some of the most legendary jazz musicians have played its stages, including B.B. King, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, and Dizzy Gillespie. Although Jazz Fest began with, well, jazz, there’s now something for everyone – Jazz, Rock, Gospel, R&B, Zydeco, and Bluegrass. The 2012 festival line-up included many well-known performers such as Bruce Springsteen, Foo Fighters, Eagles, Herbie Hancock, Ne-Yo, Florence + the Machine, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, as well as many local performers, such as Irvin Mayfield, Kermit Ruffins, Amanda Shaw, and Better Than Ezra.
For the last two years, I have heard conflicting stories about Jazz Fest. It’s a Tourist Trap! It’s tradition! It’s too crowded! People watching is half the fun! It’s expensive! It’s worth the experience!
Well, this year we decided to brave it all and experience Jazz Fest for the first time. And we were not disappointed! But let me tell you one thing…there’s no other place where jazz and blues and Cajun all blend together like it does here. It’s so much more than just music! There is the unique smell of fried catfish, sunscreen, and weed (yes…I feel it must be stated)… and a unique sound of pianos, trumpets, and saxophones…and a unique vision of fedora hats, colorful posters and murals, and Mardi Gras sculptures!!!
We shopped the arts and crafts exhibits, watched people dance and hula-hoop, ate fantastic Cajun food, and sat under the shade of large oaks listening to Allen Touissaint, Anders Osborne, and Better Than Ezra. And each performance was more incredible than the last!
Something fun I learned through my first experience of Jazz Fest – there are a lot of ways to prepare crawfish: crawfish bread; crawfish etouffee; boiled crawfish; Cajun crawfish rice; shrimp and crawfish tails; crawfish remoulade; crawfish po-boy; crawfish sack (wrapped in a crepe and deep-fat fried); crawfish beignets; crawfish strudel; crawfish monica; crawfish, spinach, and zucchini bisque; crawfish enchilada; and crawfish pie.
And in case you didn’t know…southerners LOVE richly flavored foods: Fried Catfish/Shrimp/Crawfish; Fried Green Tomatoes; Po-Boys; Muffulettas; Red Beans & Rice; and Jambalaya!
As far as parking…I think you do need to plan ahead. The festival is held in the infield of the Fair Grounds Race Course—located about 10 minutes from the French Quarter by car—but parking can be hard to find anywhere near the Fair Grounds. We were told that our best bet was to take a shuttle – an air-conditioned trip to and from the grounds for less than $20 – but we also heard that the lines are horribly long as the day goes on. So we took our chances driving up and down the streets near the Fair Grounds, and found parking in a church lot less than 1/2 mile away! And trust me…after all that good food…I
needed to walk didn’t mind walking the 1/2 mile back to my car!!!
Hope you enjoyed experiencing Jazz Fest with me!