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.