Each year at the closing of Carnival season, patrons of New Orleans gear up for the most talked about season of the year. Since the early 1980s, the New Orleans annual French Quarter Festival has successfully kicked off festival season; growing each year while maintaining the local flare that has distinguished it from the others. Also distinguishing it from other large festivals is its free admission. With 21 stages this year, French Quarter Festival went from being the largest free festival in the South, to becoming the largest free festival in the entire United States. French Quarter Fest has grown tremendously over the years. With a diameter that boundaries the Quarter, much of the festival is held in Woldenberg Park and Jackson Square.
Recognized for a variety of attractions such as culture and hospitality, French Quarter fest has maintained the same fabulous reputation for decades. "It makes us all very proud and happy," says Entertainment Manager Greg Schatz. "We hear so much positive feedback about the festival… It's great that so many people make a point to return year after year."
Embarking on its 31st anniversary, French Quarter Fest is held during one of the more beautiful months in NOLA on the weekend of April 10 - 13. It will feature more than 65 of New Orleans finest restaurants, free special events and classes, two fantastic areas for kids and most importantly, over 800 local musicians.
While French Quarter Fest has a surplus of events, the music of the festival is generally the most anticipated. The intriguing factor about the Festival is the continuation of using only local music, musicians and acts on just about all of the stages each day. "We exclusively hire local New Orleans area musicians on 19 of our 21 stages," says Schatz. The remaining two stages are the Chevron Cajun/Zydeco showcase which features musicians from Southwest Louisiana and the International stage which is located in Dutch Alley and features international jazz bands who have been volunteering to play FQF for many years. Though these non-local music acts, add to the diversity of the festival, Schatz made it clear that all of the headliners for French Quarter Fest are local and regional New Orleans musicians. "We don't need to get any national touring bands from out of state since there is so much talent right here!"
When it comes to this year's headliners, one of the most anticipated acts of 2014 is the world famous singer-songwriter, pianist and guitarist Dr. John. The Grammy award-winning local legend is set to hit the Riverfront's Abita Beer Stage to perform for the first time since 1987. Performing with his band the Nite Trippers, Dr. John is also the featured musician on the 2014 French Quarter Festival poster painted by local artist Varion Laurent.
The exceptional music lineup also includes: Bonerama, Rebirth Brass Band, Irma Thomas, Bag of Donuts, Jeremy Davenport, Big Chief Bo Dollis, Jr. & the Wild Magnolias, Eric Lindell, George Porter Jr., Hot 8 Brass Band, and the amazingly talented young musicians of The Roots of Music.
French Quarter Fest will also debut an added stage this year; The Big River Stage. Located at the edge of the aquarium plaza near the Canal Street Ferry Landing, this stage will showcase artist like Jon Cleary, Davell Crawford the Iguanas, Paul Sanchez & Minimum Rage, and the New Orleans Suspects.
If you're a huge fan of brass, then be sure to check out the new Barracks Street Brass Band Jam where there'll be featured brass bands on the side of the U.S. Mint Museum.
Also performing this year for the first time is Grammy nominated musician PJ Morton. He's a New Orleans native that spends much of his time on the road as the lead keyboard player with Maroon 5. Also pursuing a solo career, Morton recently had the privilege of recording a duet with Stevie Wonder which can be heard on his album.
Of course there are a number of other stages and remarkable artist contributing their music to the festival this year. Be sure to purchase a copy of their albums, grab a t-shirt or two, and take home an original French Quarter Fest poster. Don't forget to indulge in food from the best restaurants in the city, spectacular dance classes, and tasty cocktails. Most importantly Schatz would like the festival patrons to, "take away some great memories…and have so much fun that they will return each year."
For more information on the festival and all the happenings, please visit www.fqfi.org.