Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Jazz Fest 2018

            The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, otherwise known as Jazz Fest, is a yearly celebration of the music and culture of New Orleans. The festival runs every year on the last weekend in April (Friday-Sunday) and the first weekend in May (Thursday-Sunday). The Fair Grounds Race Course, a horse racing track in Mid-City New Orleans plays host to the festival. The music begins at 11:00 AM and runs through 7:00 PM. Jazz Fest attracts tourists from across the country and the world. It is the second biggest event in the city each year—only trailing Mardi Gras. The festival brings in over $300 million annually. 
Jazz Fest poster 2016

            Jazz Fest features hundreds of performers and performances ranging from local musicians to internationally famous rock and roll bands. There are twelve different stages with musical acts playing all day from 11-7. Aerosmith is headlining this year’s festival and will also have performances by Sting, Sheryl Crow, Common, LL Cool J, Rod Stewart, Jimmy Buffett, and the Steve Miller Band. Jazz Fest also features a host of local musicians playing everything from jazz to zydeco to hip hop to bounce music. Show up at any day of the festival and you’ll find New Orleans artists like John Boutté, the Rebirth Brass Band, Trombone Shorty, Kermit Ruffins, Big Freedia, and a number of Mardi Gras Indian bands. Artists who have performed at the DGA crawfish boil like the Hot 8 Brass Band, Tuba Skinny, and Flow Tribe will all perform this year. 

            The festival began back in 1970 thanks to the efforts of the New Orleans Hotel Motel Association. The Association wanted to highlight New Orleans’ unique musical and cultural heritage to bring tourists to the city—where they would stay in local hotels and motels and boost the economy. The first two festivals, in 1970 and 1971, were held in Beauregard Square—now Louis Armstrong Park—and Congo Square. Admittance to the first festival cost $3 and had only four stages without microphones. Visiting musicians stayed at the homes of the festival’s organizers. The next year, however, the crowd began to grow. By 1972, the festival moved to its current host site, the Fair Grounds Race Course. In the mid-1970s, organizers began producing a yearly poster series to promote the festival. By the late 1980s, the festival was attracting over 300,000 people per year. 

Jazz Fest stage 

            Jazz Fest is owned and operated by the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, which over the years has become an important civic institution. The Foundation uses the proceeds from the festival to fund education, economic development, and cultural programs. Since 1979, they have donated over $1 million to local schools, artists, and musicians. The Foundation owns the Jazz and Heritage Gallery, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the Jazz and Heritage Radio WWOZ 90.7FM, the Jazz and Heritage Foundation Archive, the Jazz and Heritage Center, and the Jazz and Heritage Gala. Educational programs include the Don Jamison Heritage School of Music, the Tom Dent Congo Lecture Series, and School Day at the Fest. They provide grants to Raisin' the Roof (a program that assists southern-Louisiana musicians with home-buying costs), the Jazz and Heritage Music and Media Market, and the Jazz and Heritage Music Exchange. The Foundation also organizes and hosts a number of other festivals including the Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival, Fiesta Latina, the Congo Square Rhythms Festival, the Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival, Gospel is Alive!, Jazz Journey, the Treme Creole Gumbo Festival, and many others. 

            Every year Jazz Fest seeks to celebrate the culture of Louisiana. Make sure you check it out. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Wikipedia Louisiana: The French Legal Tradition

            Picking up from last week, where we discussed the Louisiana Purchase, let’s explore Louisiana’s unique legal and administrative system that is descended from French legal traditions.  

            The laws and legal traditions that characterize Louisiana’s justice and governmental systems are different from every other state in the United States. Since Louisiana was originally founded as a French colony (and later became a Spanish one), its legal and administrative structures are derived from French and Spanish legal traditions. These traditions, in turn, stemmed from Roman legal principles. The other 49 states all rely on traditions descended from English common law—since the 13 original colonies were all founded by the English. Over the years, Louisiana lawmakers have bridged many of the differences between these traditions, but significant differences remain. The first is that courts based on the English common law tradition tend to rule based on precedents and are generally bound by them. The logic underlying this principle is that following precedents ensures equal and fair administration of the law. In Louisiana, judges are allowed to make rulings based on their own interpretations of law. The differences between Louisiana’s French and Roman legal traditions especially manifest themselves in civil and family law. As a result, the Louisiana bar exam is the longest of any state, taking twenty-one and a half hours.  

The 19th century seal of Louisiana 

            It is commonly and erroneously claimed that Louisiana’s legal tradition is based on the Napoleonic code. This is not true. While Louisiana’s civil code shares the same antecedents as the Napoleonic Code, the Napoleonic Code did not go into effect in France until 1804, a year after Napoleon had sold the Louisiana territory to the United States.  

            The administration of the state of Louisiana also differs from the other 49 states. Louisiana is divided into 64 parishes rather than counties. Functionally, parishes serve similar functions to the counties found elsewhere in the United States. Forty-one parishes have a form of government known as a police jury. The police jury serves as the legislative and executive government of the parish and together the police jurors elect a parish president. The size of police juries vary from three to fifteen members depending on the size of the parish.  When Louisiana joined the United States, each parish had a parish judge and justice of the peace who were appointed by the governor. Voters then elected the policy jury which was responsible for maintaining the peace and supporting the judicial branch. 

Louisiana's Parishes

            The remaining parishes have a variety of different governmental structures. The majority of the parishes have split the executive and legislative functions between two branches. They use a council-president system where the voters elect a parish president and legislative council separately.  Caddo Parish, located in northern Louisiana elects a parish council which then hires a professional manager to run the government. A smaller number of parishes, mostly in the major metropolitan areas, have merged the parish and city governments together. So New Orleans and Orleans Parish, Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parish, Lafayette Parish and Lafayette, and Terrebonne Parish and Houma all have consolidated governments.  

            Another area where Louisiana is different from the United States is how the state runs its elections. Next week, we’ll take a look at Louisiana and its jungle primary system.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Introducing Wikipedia Louisiana

            Over the history of this blog, we’ve tried to educate our readers about Louisiana’s unique history. It’s a land of Cajuns and Creoles, crawfish and king cake, and Louis Armstrong and Louis Prima. We’ve explored the history of Mardi Gras, Christmas Eve bonfires, and the Natchitoches Meat Pie.  We’ve written way too many words about the New Orleans Saints. We’ve reviewed New Orleans restaurants and local attractions.  

            Since this is a blog as much about the State of Louisiana as anything else, we’re excited to launch a new recurring feature—Wikipedia Louisiana.  We’re going to use the popular online encyclopedia to highlight the unique features of our home state. So let us explain how this is going to work.  We’ll begin our adventure on the Wikipedia page for the State of Louisiana. Then we will highlight some feature of that page. For the next feature, we’ll follow some link off the Louisiana Wikipedia page to shed some light on some other part of Louisiana. Then the following week, we’ll follow a link from each subsequent page. This way we can explore some of the more interesting and less well-known parts of Louisiana’s culture and history. 

The Louisiana Purchase overlaid the modern US 

            For this week, let’s just start off with how Louisiana became a state through the Louisiana Purchase.  Louisiana became the 18thstate on April 30, 1812. In 1803, the United States had purchased the then Louisiana Territory from the French government of Napoleon Bonaparte for approximately $15 million (equivalent to about $300 million in today’s money). The Louisiana territory included land would become parts of 15 states: Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, New Mexico, Texas, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado and parts of two Canadian provinces: Alberta and Saskatchewan.  The land purchase was the largest in the history of the young United States. 

Louisiana becomes American 

President Thomas Jefferson had initially wanted to purchase the port of New Orleans and not the entire territory. As a desire for cotton and other slave-grown agricultural products fueled westward settlement, Jefferson and other southerners wanted guaranteed access for their goods down the Mississippi River. The only way to guarantee that access came by controlling the city of New Orleans itself. New Orleans sat near the mouth of the Mississippi river and any ships passing out into the gulf or up the Mississippi had to stop off in New Orleans. The city had long been a hub of trade since the French founded the city in the early 17thcentury. Jefferson wrote of his desire to control New Orleans that: 

There is on the globe one single spot, the possessor of which is our natural and habitual enemy. It is New Orleans, through which the produce of three-eighths of our territory must pass to market, and from its fertility it will ere long yield more than half of our whole produce and contain more than half our inhabitants. France placing herself in that door assumes to us the attitude of defiance. Spain might have retained it quietly for years. Her pacific dispositions, her feeble state, would induce her to increase our facilities there, so that her possession of the place would be hardly felt by us, and it would not perhaps be very long before some circumstance might arise which might make the cession of it to us the price of something of more worth to her. Not so can it ever be in the hands of France. 

Napoleon proved more than willing to sell not only New Orleans, but the entire territory. The diminutive French dictator had little interest in reviving French claims to North America and had more pressing concerns fighting wars against his European neighbors.  

            Since Louisiana was originally a French colony, its state government varied significantly from the other American states. Next week we’ll explore this phenomenon. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Crawfish Boil 2018: Recap!

On Saturday, we hosted the 11th Annual Douglas Green Associates Family and Friends Crawfish Boil at Maison Lafitte in Mandeville, Louisiana. While there was a threat of rain and thunderstorms in the morning, the sun shone through and the temperature was in the low 70s. We had three musical acts, hundreds of pounds of crawfish, an oyster bar, and a host of door prizes.

In the coming weeks, we'll have videos and more photos to share. Until then, here's just a few.

Welcome to the Boil! 

Cooking the Crawfish

The Finished Product 

Benny Turner 

Flow Tribe

Storyville Stompers 

Our awesome taro card reader! 

Hmm oysters 

Part of the team 

Hmmm cupcakes 

We'll have more photos and videos in the coming weeks. If you missed out this year, don't worry we'll be back next year. Mark your calendars for March 9, 2019! 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Crawfish Boil 2018: Peeling Crawfish

Just a reminder: the 11th Annual DGA Family and Friends Crawfish Boil is THIS SATURDAY! That’s right, this Saturday, March 10, 2017 from 12-5 at Maison Lafitte, 402 Lafitte St. Mandeville, LA.

Now to get you properly prepared, here’s Benson to teach you all had to peel and eat crawfish. 

The process is relatively simple, and a well-coooked crawfish should give even inexperienced folks little trouble. Before you start peeling, remember that crawfish boiled live typically have curled tails, such as the one in the image above.  Those that were dead when they went in the boil (there’s always a few) have flat tails and mushy meat.  You can toss those suckers into your pile of shells if you like.

You might have heard of the twist, pinch, and suck method of peeling crawfish.  This refers to twisting off the head, pinching the tail, and sucking the head.  This is the basic method we’re going to learn, although sucking the head is entirely optional.  Most crotchety Cajuns suck the heads to put newcomers off their crawfish, but there’s also a culinary reason to do it and I’ll explain that at the end.

Although these colloquial terms are wildly inaccurate in terms of a crawfish’s anatomy, the two basic parts you need to know about are the “head,” the main body of the crawfish, and the “tail,” the segmented abdomen of the crawfish. 

To start peeling, grasp the head in one hand and the tail in the other. 

Next, twist the head and pull it away from the tail. 

At this point, you can pinch the tail and pull out the meat with your teeth, but that takes some crawfish experience.  Being new to peeling crawfish, you will have more success if you peel the first segment of the shell off of the tail. 

You can then flip the tail over, use your thumb to pinch the tail at the base, and then pull out the meat.

Last, but not least, you can suck the head.  The reason to do this is that most of the fat is in this part of the crawfish and it doesn’t always come out with the tail meat.  Like crabs, crawfish fat is extremely tasty and it holds a remarkable amount of flavor. You also get a good taste of the spicy boil from sucking the head.

See you Saturday! 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Crawfish Boil 2018: Just What Are Crawfish Anyway?

        The DGA Friends and Family Crawfish Boil is about many things. It's about bringing friends and family together. It's about listening to some awesome local music. And it's also about eating crawfish. But just what are crawfish and why do they taste so good? Let's take a look at the history of these delicious crustaceans and how they've become a culinary staple of south Louisiana.  

          Crawfish season runs from late February through early June. Crawfish live in the wetlands that surround the Mississippi River and its estuaries. In the centuries before European settlement in Louisiana, the crustaceans thrived in the creeks, lakes, and bayous of south Louisiana. Local native Americans collected crawfish by the bushel by baiting wooden reeds with venison and dipping them into the water. The crawfish would latch onto the meat and dangle off the reeds, providing locals with their dinner. 

Watch out... it'll get you. 

          When the Acadians arrived in Louisiana in the 1750s, they quickly learned the value and deliciousness of this local delicacy. These French settlers, who had been expelled from Canada by the English during the Seven Years War, began incorporating crawfish into the cuisine. Over the ensuing decades, crawfish became a staple of Cajun cuisine. The Cajuns even created their own legends about the origin of crawfish, demonstrating just how important they had become in Cajun culture. According to the legend, after the explosion of the Cajuns from Canada, local lobsters followed the Acadians from the ice cold waters of the Atlantic to the Mississippi basin. When the lobsters entered the warm waters of the gulf, they shrank to their present size. 

          The commercial sale of crawfish began only in the late 1800s with the first recorded harvest in 1880. The crawfish, raised in the Atchafalaya Basin, resulted in a  harvest of 23,400 pounds, worth about $2,140 (about $51,000 in today’s money). In 1908, the U.S. Census Bureau recorded that Louisiana produced about 88,000 pounds of crawfish per year, worth about $3,600 (about $93,000 today). The Great Depression of the 1930s drove the price of crawfish down to as low as 4 cents per pound. Technological advancements, including trucking, railroads, and refrigeration, fueled the movement of live crawfish from the rural bayou to urban centers like Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The introduction of traps and nets allowed for the collection of greater numbers of crawfish. 

There are entire memes devoted to crawfish. 

          In the 1930s, Louisiana began to cultivate the production of crawfish on farms. Rice had long been a staple of bayou farmers. In order to gain more income, rice farmers began re-flooding their fields in order to produce harvests of crawfish in the winter and early spring. This practice soon spread across Louisiana wherever low-lying ponds and marshland could be found.

          The process of farming stabilized crawfish production. Before farming, the harvest in any given year depended on the water levels in the Atchafalaya Basin. Thus the market fluctuated wildly from year to year. Now with consistent water levels, farmers could control the size of the harvest and stabilize their incomes. By the mid-1960s, over 10,000 acres of crawfish farms had spread across Louisiana. In the decades since, crawfish farms have increased by a factor of twelve to approximately 120,000 acres. Louisiana accounts for 85%-95% of total U.S. crawfish production. 

Hmm... crawfish 
          In 1960, the community of Breaux Bridge was named the crawfish capitol of the world and every year since has held yearly crawfish festival.  This growth in production caused Louisiana restaurants to begin featuring crawfish on their menus. Long a staple of Cajun cuisine, crawfish étouffée became a restaurant staple. With its increasing visibility as a product unique to south Louisiana, crawfish boils became a way to celebrate the culinary traditions that make Louisiana unique. Today, the crawfish industry accounts for seven thousand jobs and 300 million dollars in revenue for the state. 

The process for cooking crawfish has stayed the same over the years (and this may attest to the longevity of crawfish consumption); get a pot of water boiling (seasoned with salt and spices), add the live crawfish, let cook for several minutes. Then eat the crawfish on newspaper covered tables until you can’t eat them anymore. It’s a tradition that we look forward to upholding on March 10. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Crawfish Boil 2018: Mighty Pelicans

           For this year's DGA Family and Friends Crawfish Boil, we're thrilled to welcome back the Mighty Pelicans from Austin, Texas. The Pelicans have thrilled the crowds for the past two years, so we decided to bring them back for a third year in a row. 

The Mighty Pelicans! 

            The four members of The Mighty Pelicans have deep roots in Louisiana. Kerry “Kingfish” Blackmon (drums and vocals) and Chuck Doyle, Louisiana natives, first met in college in the 1970s at LSU. In the 1980s, after both men moved to Austin, Texas, they began playing together in various blues, R&B, and zydeco bands. Together  with Kerry’s son, Michael "Mudbug" Blackmon and guitarist Johnny Blue, they formed The Mighty Pelicans. While all of the men originally played in a variety of bands, including a zydeco band, in 2011 they committed themselves to The Mighty Pelicans and have been playing in the Austin area ever since.   

Last year, the Pelicans premiered a new song in honor of Doug titled, Call Doug. The song details the life of DGA's founder and leader Doug Green. We hope to have a version available to share with you all soon. The Pelicans also featured some fantastic second-lining as shown in the video below. For our out of town guests, second lining is a New Orleans style of dance in which participants follow behind a band walking, spinning, or dancing around. The tradition most likely originated from the musical traditions of West African slaves brought to Louisiana. Over time, these traditions merged with the marching band traditions of white Americans, creating something uniquely New Orleans. Now second lines are a common part of most parades in New Orleans and are neighborhood events with participants singing, dancing, and interacting with members of their communities. They are a time to celebrate and be with loved ones, friends, and neighbors.

Second lining! 

We hope you can join us for the second line at the 11th Annual DGA Family and Friends Crawfish Boil on March 10, 2018 at Maison Lafitte in Mandeville, Louisiana.