French Quarter Festival Enters Its 35th Year with New Events, Lighter Food Options

11:39 April 10, 2018
By: Eddy Guttierrez III

As the French Quarter Festival enters its 35th year, the event continues its evolution from a small, neighborhood-focused event to the largest celebration of Louisiana music, food, art, and culture in the world. Featuring over 300 musical acts on 23 stages, ranging from traditional jazz to hip hop brass; more than 60 food vendors, featuring local culinary institutions like Antoine’s, Tujague’s, and the Court of Two Sisters; and events and stages throughout the Vieux Carre, the festival will add new elements to the festival landscape for patrons to enjoy.

New to this year’s festival is the NOLA.com Fest Family Experience, located in the Jax Brewery parking lot. For $375, those looking for a more comfortable festival experience can enjoy a raised viewing platform adjacent to the Abita Beer Stage, private bars with free beer and cocktails, complimentary water and snacks, air conditioning, and shaded areas. The admission price covers all four days of the festival and also includes insider perks, like a laminated credential, official merchandise, merchandise discounts, and more.

The festival began in 1983 to support French Quarter businesses disrupted by sidewalk and street construction during the 1984 World’s Fair. This year, the event’s new Gateway to Bourbon Street Stage helps the fest to continue fulfilling its founding purpose by bringing patrons back to the newly reopened 100 block of Bourbon Street, where recent street reconstruction has slowed business and foot traffic to a crawl. Another new addition to this year’s festival, Ernie’s Schoolhouse Stage, features up-and-coming local student musicians such as the Landry-Walker High School band, the Martin Luther King High School Brass Band, and the NOCCA Jazz Ensemble, giving these young artists the chance to not only perform at the festival, but to gain the vital marketing and business skills needed to promote their careers. In addition to these new stages, a record-breaking 33 musical acts, including performers such as Rechell Cook and the Regeneration Band, Deltaphonic, and The Quickening, will be making their French Quarter Festival debuts in 2018, joining favorites like Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Irma Thomas, Jon Cleary, and Partners-N-Crime.

In a city renowned around the world for its unique traditional cuisine, French Quarter Festival delivers a wide array of options. There are both classic New Orleans restaurants that have participated in the festival since its inaugural year, like Pat O’Brien’s, Vaucresson Sausage, and Desire Oyster Bar, as well as vendors like The Company Burger, Café Dauphine, and SoBou, entering their first year at the event. In addition to the numerous food options available at the festival, there will be some new beverage choices as well. Abita Brewing will be running a beer garden for the first time this year, featuring 13 lesser-known brews, such as Shotgun Double, Maison Blanc, and Old Fashioned Pale Ale, in addition to old favorites like Purple Haze and Amber. In addition to the boozy offerings, Pepsi will be launching Bubly, a zero-calorie flavored sparkling water, at all booths serving soft drinks.

Those looking for savory treats like beignets, fried seafood, or cochon de lait can find those in abundance, but this year, attendees looking for lighter fare or those with special dining needs will find some new additions that suit them just fine as well. One new vendor, The Daily Beet, will feature vegetarian fare, such as mango spring rolls with a peanut ginger dipping sauce and avocado toast. Kingfish Kitchen and Cocktails will present a pickled, blackened shrimp dish over cabbage slaw with honey mustard dressing, and The Company Burger will offer a turkey burger. The festival’s website, frenchquarterfest.org, will also designate food items as gluten-free, sugar-free, or vegetarian on the event’s culinary lineup.

As French Quarter Festival celebrates its 35th birthday, the city of New Orleans celebrates her 300th. Among the numerous events and ceremonies honoring the city’s tricentennial this year, the festival will also offer ways for attendees to wish the city a happy birthday. The New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation will sponsor the Tricentennial Homecoming Pavilion, which will showcase exhibits featuring famous New Orleanians throughout history, a hospitality lounge, and a story booth featuring the One Time in NOLA tourism slogan. The festival’s main stage in Jackson Square will be named the Hilton Tricentennial Stage for this year’s festival, and will feature artists such as John Boutte and Ellis Marsalis. A fireworks show over the Mississippi River will take place Saturday, April 14, immediately after the music ends on the Abita Beer Stage around 9 p.m.

Voted by locals to be one of the city’s favorite festivals, the 35th edition of the French Quarter Festival is sure to deliver a wide variety of local Louisiana food and music that all people can enjoy. Featuring a number of new musical acts and food vendors, including a number of food items for people with special dietary needs, the festival is stronger than ever in its 35th year, and like New Orleans in her 300th, promises to keep getting better.

Be sure to visit whereyat.com for the complete French Quarter Festival lineup and more information on the festival.

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