NEW ORLEANS JAZZ & HERITAGE FESTIVAL
APRIL 25-May 5, 2019
SETTING THE STAGE WITH PURPOSE
by Chrissy Cifuentes
For over 50 years, The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival has been a staple of Louisiana culture. Some of the greatest musicians of all time have graced its’ stages and stunned audiences with their musical talents. Stars like Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, and Lady Gaga are just a few of the countless performers that pack the festival each year. More than 450,000 people were in attendance for last year’s festival, and this year’s fiftieth anniversary is estimated to top the charts. Performers such as Katy Perry, Dave Matthews Band, Gladys Knight, Diana Ross and more are set to ignite crowds by singing some of their most popular songs. Although hundreds of thousands are in attendance for the fest itself, many do not know the hard work that is needed in order to organize such an iconic event.
The excitement felt by those who attend Jazz Fest each year is contagious. Festival goers make the annual event a part of life and tote their lawn chairs onto the Fair Grounds to prepare for the fun. This year is no exception. Tickets are selling fast and singers, performers, artists, vendors, and cooks are gearing up for the fiftieth celebration. However, Jazz Fest did not start as dynamic as it is today. It began in 1970 with its founder, George Wein, paving the way. Wein was no stranger to creating electric events that entertained the masses. Before Jazz Fest, he produced the Newport Jazz Fest and the Newport Folk Fest in Rhode Island. While preparing for the New Orleans festival, Wein assembled a committee of dedicated people to act as the pioneers of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage festival. Early Jazz Fest served as a platform for local artists to be showcased. Almost all acts were performed by Louisiana natives looking for a chance to shine such as Pete Fountain and Mahalia Jackson. As years passed, the festival continued to gain national recognition. In 1972, the venue was changed to the Fair Grounds Race Course located in the heart of the city. Not only did the location change, but also the prestigious musical lineups. Although local acts still pack the grounds, some of the world’s most recognizable voices electrify audiences each weekend.
The line-ups are not only meant to entertain, but also they are meant to attract tourists to our region. With these various tourists come an enormous amount of funds which is used for the betterment of our city. Over $300 million is collected annually and is utilized by the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation. Since its conception, the foundation has raised countless dollars which has positively impacted New Orleans and its’ communities in the areas of education, music, development, economics and culture. Without the festival, their sponsors, and the many people who work diligently to make it possibly, Louisiana arts and culture would not be the powerhouse of energy that it is today.
So, what makes Jazz Fest so unbelievably exciting? Many would say the music. While strolling through bustling city streets, sounds of trombone players and tap dancers flutter through the air. These beats cause a rippling effect of joy to ignite the hearts of those passing. From its’ beginning, the festival kept New Orleans culture alive by enticing audiences with a wide variety of sights and sounds. There are 12 music stages geared to every genre of music imaginable. Some of the most popular stages include the Acura (the main stage), The Gentilly Stage (the second main stage), and the Gospel and Blues tents. The Congo Square stage is also a popular venue where Afro-Centric and Caribbean styled performances captivate audiences. There is certainly a wide variety of music presented during the two week fest. The endless genres of music enrich the atmosphere while serving as a reminder that New Orleans is a melting pot of cultures all united by music.
Music is not the only thing that makes this remarkable festival so memorable. Food and art come together to have New Orleans culture take the stage. Delicious Cajun and Creole cuisine is served up across the Fair Grounds. Notable restaurants and chefs from across the region are compelled to join the festivities in order to showcase their dishes to tourists and locals alike. Some of the most favored items are Crawfish Monica, Mango Freezes or Jambalaya.
What’s a cultural celebration without the arts? Jazz Fest would not be the cultural hub that it is today without the many artistic minds behind the whole event. Painters, sculptors, poets, jewelry designers and crafters line the acres of land. Each vendor uses this venue to not only sell their creations, but also to gain world-wide recognition. It is a place where all can be exposed to art and the minds behind the brilliance. Unlike other gallery experiences, the creators are up close and personal with potential customers. Designers have the opportunity to share their creativity with each person passing by. Another way art is incorporated in the production of Jazz Fest is their annual poster design. This design is strategically made in to order to captivate the public and signify the event as a whole. Festival goers leave with a new, exciting view on the arts throughout our city, and many walk away with tangible pieces that they can pass down through their generations.
For the Lifestyles Health and Wealth team, The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is a monumental representation of all things New Orleans. Our magazine celebrates the importance of music, rhythm, artistry and cuisine. Without the imaginative beats, flavorful dishes, and vivid paintings, this festival would not be the passionate event that we all know and love. But most importantly, it is the people that make Jazz Fest the dynamic celebration of arts and culture that we cherish.