May 19, 2022

Charlie Doodle

Unique Art & Entertainment

Commentary: Festival season reminds us why we love New Orleans | Commentary

3 min read

Although an official tally is not yet available, the city’s tourism promotion entity New Orleans & Co. estimates more than 800,000 people enjoyed this year’s French Quarter Festival. It was a beautiful weekend for the city’s first major festival in three years. Even a bit of late rain on April 24 couldn’t bring down festival goers’ spirits. It forced only short delays and truncated sets from the day’s last few performers.

The performers clearly enjoyed themselves, too. Many of them, like Tank and the Bangas, Christien Bold and the On the Levee Jazz Band to name but a few, put on memorable shows.

And while some of us may have forgotten personal space boundaries as we enjoyed ourselves, minor transgressions of festival etiquette were easily forgiven. After all, it had been more than two years since so many New Orleanians fested anywhere but on their porches or in their living rooms. Some were bound to be a bit rusty.

Best of all, the fest put broad smiles on the throngs of locals who once again shared the excitement of hearing and dancing to live music and enjoying delicious food and too much drink. We saw no heated arguments, let alone fights. That’s better than one could reasonably expect from 800,000 clerics gathered on Easter Sunday.

Originally a festival of local music for locals, FQF’s nearly 40-year run has drawn more and more tourists. At its heart, thankfully, it remains a celebration of local culture, food and music. That’s why many consider it the best free music festival in America. The organizers and small army of volunteers behind it deserve high praise for putting on such a great weekend — and for always making it the perfect prelude to Jazz Fest’s two-week run.

That’s critically important as we enter May, with hurricane season and the brutal heat of summer bearing down on us. In a few weeks the flow of tourists will recede, and most New Orleanians will turn their focus back to our city’s many challenges.

Since Hurricane Ida, many New Orleanians questioned why they continue to live here. For two years, we endured all of our city’s endemic hardships — heat, storms, violence and crumbling infrastructure — without our traditional opportunities to enjoy what makes living here bearable.

That’s what has made the stretch since mid-February so important, and so welcome. We had Carnival parades and Mardi Gras. The Big Chiefs put on successive Super Sundays filled with music, joy and reconnection to neighborhood roots. Easter Sunday saw picture-perfect weather for a number of parades. And most recently we enjoyed an enormous, free festival — all without significant Covid spikes or public safety issues. Ah, springtime in New Orleans.

We may never get “back” to where we were before but, hopefully, we’re on the path toward restoring our appreciation for all the things that remind us why, for all its faults, New Orleans remains the only place we’d ever want to call home — and why we fight so hard to make things better for all New Orleanians.

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