French Quarter Fest Turns 35

The Crescent City Hosts Largest Free Festival in America Apr. 12-15

By Edwin Buggage

The French Quarter Fest Bigger than Ever It is again that time of year. In a City where there are countless festivals and celebrations; the French Quarter Festival kicks off the spring with four days of food, fun and music. French Quarter Festivals, Inc. (FQFI) annually produces three festivals: French Quarter Festival, Satchmo SummerFest, and Christmas New Orleans Style. FQFI is a 501c (3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote the Vieux Carré and the City of New Orleans through high quality special events and activities that showcase the culture and heritage of this unique City, contribute to the economic well-being of the community, and instill increased pride in the people of New Orleans.

This year marks the 35th Anniversary where in the beginning of spring the French Quarter is filled with locals and tourist alike enjoying the Quarters. The Festival has grown considerably since 1984 when it was first produced as a way to bring local residents back to the Quarters. In its over three decades of existence it has come to rival much larger festivals and is known as the largest free festival in the U.S. averaging between 500,000 and 750,000 people annually. Also, according to a study conducted by the University of New Orleans (UNO) Hospitality Research Center, in 2017 French Quarter Festival generated a total economic impact of $190 million dollars to the local economy; and it also generated a total of 15.8 million dollars in tax revenue for state and local governments. Additionally, it also employs more than 1700 local musicians during the Festival weekend.

Four Days of Music, Food and Fun

During these days music is everywhere, with more than 20 stages throughout the French Quarter celebrating local music and representing every genre from traditional and contemporary jazz to R&B, New Orleans funk, brass bands, folk, gospel, Latin, Zydeco, classical, cabaret, and international.

But what is a festival without food. New Orleans great restaurants also serve food and beverages in Jackson Square, the Louisiana State Museum’s Old U.S. Mint, JAX Brewery, and Woldenberg Riverfront Park during French Quarter Festival weekend; with vendors of all types serving the best in local cuisine.

Celebrating the French Quarter and the Culture and Heritage of New Orleans and its People

New Orleans is a City that continues to be a cultural jewel. In addition to the French Quarter Fest and other festivals the City is also celebrating its 300th Anniversary. “It is a great event I love playing for the people not just this year, but every year is special to me,” says Phil Frazier, co-founder of the Grammy Award Winning Rebirth Brass Band.

This year performers includes; Grammy Award Winning Rebirth Brass Band, the legendary Ellis Marsalis, the amazing vocalist Charmaine Neville, Big Sam Funky Nation, John Boutte, James Andrews, Bill Summers, Partners-in-Crime, the Stooges Brass Band, Nayo Jones, JuJu Child, Zohar Israel and Free Spirit Afro Caribbean Showcase, Monk Boudreaux and the Golden Eagles, Corey Henry and the Treme’ Funktet, Stephanie Jordan, Love Evolution, Bill Summers, Chocolate Milk, Bo Dollis and the Wild Magnolias, Rockin’ Dopsie and the Zydeco Twisters, Cyril Neville and Swamp Funk and many more.

“I have played the French Quarter Festival before as a sideman and with my own band, but I am truly excited this year to be part of as it celebrates its 35th year and the City celebrates its 300th Anniversary,” says drummer Jamal Batiste. “My set is going to be lit, turned up, high energy and great fun. I want everyone to come out and enjoy the fest every day and be sure to catch my set on Friday.”

Love Evolution was the highlight of the new artists featured on the Tropical Isle Stage at the 2017 French Quarter Festival. Love a Evolution delivered a high energy multicultural musical celebration that drew a crowd of dancing singing attendees. Featuring Black Masking culture bearers, a drumline, and local youth the 2017 performance lit up the festival. Looking forward to the 2018 FQF expect a bodacious cultural New Orleans experience.

This year the French Quarter Fest turns 35 and the City is celebrating its 300th Anniversary; it is truly a special time for the City as festival season kicks off.

“Every day is a celebration in the City; our lives are about family, food, friends and music. Our history continues to live on in this City not just in the festivals that showcase it, but in the everyday life of the people,” says trumpeter, singer and all-around entertainer James Andrews, who has been an ambassador for New Orleans and the music for several decades. “I love playing the French Quarter Festival and celebrating my City that was here before America was America and is the best thing to ever happen to the country because we have given the world the gift of jazz and a culture that people from around the world come to experience and enjoy.”

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