Festival season is upon us. It’s time to pack away Carnival season and prepare for the spring festivals.
Since the 1980s, New Orleans’ annual French Quarter Festival has successfully kicked off festival season. It has grown each year while maintaining the local flair that has distinguished it from other festivals. It has sustained its position as the largest free festival in the South and one of the largest free festivals in the United States. It continues to draw in the masses, gaining more attendees each year. Last year alone, FQF raked in over 732,000 people and it plans to exceed that amount in 2015.
French Quarter Festival Inc. is a non-profit organization that dedicates its time to festivals such as FQF, Satchmo Summerfest and Christmas New Orleans Style. With FQF coming shortly after the end of a usually busy Carnival season, preparation for this festival takes a team of diligent hard-working individuals. “It gets a little easier to prepare once Mardi Gras is over, since so many of the people that we work with are busy during Carnival,” said entertainment manager Greg Schatz, recognizing that the end result is the biggest payoff of them all. “It’s great to see the fruits of many months of labor come together and to see so many people out there enjoying it.”
Embarking on its 32nd anniversary this year, FQF is held during one of the more beautiful months in New Orleans on April 9 through 12. It features food by 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. FQF spreads out across the entire French Quarter, from Woldenberg Park, to Royal and Bourbon Streets, to Jackson Square and the Old U.S. Mint. Featuring 23 stages, this year’s FQF adds a new stage on the Spanish Plaza and another on the 500 block of Royal Street.
FQF is consistently recognized for its variety of attractions, such as culture and hospitality. It has an impeccable reputation for hosting and preserving all things local and loved about New Orleans. And it continues to feature only local music, musicians and acts on just about all of the stages. In addition to musician interviews at the Old U.S. Mint and dance lessons at the French Market Stage, this year the Speakeasy Quartet and the NOLA Jitterbugs will be holding a dance lesson and dance show with music onstage in Jackson Square on Thursday, April 9, from 2 to 3 pm.
While offering variety is vital to the success of FQF, the selection of musical entertainment is always the most anticipated aspect each year. “Our entertainment committee selects artists for French Quarter Festival each year,” said Schatz. “The committee is composed of local musicians, music industry folks and a few staff members.”
With almost two dozen stages of music, FQF has a little something for everyone. It makes sure to represent every genre, from traditional and contemporary jazz to R&B, New Orleans funk, brass bands, folk, gospel, Latin, Zydeco, classical, cabaret and international. This year’s headliners include New Orleans’ own soul queen Irma Thomas, the legendary Allen Toussaint, Doug Kershaw and Steve Riley, and The Dixie Cups. The exceptional music lineup also includes Irvin Mayfield & NOJO, Rebirth Brass Band, George Porter Jr. & Runnin’ Pardners, James Andrews, Bag of Donuts, Jeremy Davenport, Bonerama, Eric Lindell, Hot 8 Brass Band, Amanda Shaw and the Bucktown All-Stars.
Along with the headliners, Schatz is also looking forward to checking out the new stages. “The New Orleans Klezmer All Stars will be performing at FQF for the first time in Jackson Square…and Big Sam and Tab Benoit will both be doing shows at the new Spanish Plaza stage,” said Schatz. “I also really enjoy the Bourbon and Royal Street stages.”
Of course, there are a number of remarkable artists contributing music to the festival this year. Be sure to purchase their CDs, grab a T-shirt or two and take home an original French Quarter Festival poster. And don’t forget to indulge in food from the best restaurants in the city, spectacular dance classes and tasty cocktails.