Although I am a New Orleans native, I did not grow up going to Jazz Fest each year like other locals. It wasn't until just five years ago that a great friend of mine convinced me to step outside of my comfort zone, and I'm glad that she did. Before then, I was too anxious about the crowds, not much of a live-music lover, and I hated the thought of hanging out in the heat while sitting on the grass. Thank God that Jazz Fest came along to save my sheltered, judgmental little soul!
Now that I know better and have an open mind and heart, I'd like to share my successes with everyone. Enjoying Jazz Fest is very simple. It comes down to what you wear, what you drink, what you bring, and who you go with.
What to wear to Jazz Fest:
Wearing the correct clothing is by far one of the most important details for a successful Jazz Fest experience. Most of the time—fingers crossed—you'll have a beautiful, sunny day. Making sure that you are not adding to the heat by wearing something too heavy or uncomfortable will make things that much more enjoyable. Preparing for the weather in case it isn't perfect is another absolute must. Here's a list of what's most important:
1. SUNBLOCK- Even if the sky is a little cloudy, trust me, the sun is still shining on you. You will need sunblock!
2. Proper clothing - Again, dress comfortably. Wear something lightweight and casual. Shorts are usually the best, but as a hater of shorts, a sundress works just fine. Definitely wear a comfortable, cool top (i.e. a tank top, or, if you are worried about tan lines, a strapless shirt). Guys, t-shirts and shorts are perfect. Do not try to get fancy. It's hot out there.
3. Shoes - Flip-flops are great and tennis shoes will work as well. Some people will tell you that wearing comfy socks and tennis shoes are best because they are better to walk in; that seems so hot to me. I'd rather risk the walk and wear flip-flops. No matter what, please do not be the girl wearing stilettos to Jazz Fest. If I'm not wearing heels, it's not a heel-worthy event! The majority of the walking paths are dirt and grass, and heels are not necessary—nor are they cute out there. No one will be impressed. And do not go barefoot. You are at the racetrack, where horses race; consider what you are walking in. Yuck!
4. Essentials - sunglasses, hats—anything to help block the sun.
5. Rain plan - In the event that it is raining OR has rained and caused the "Jazz Fest mud pit," rain boots are 100 percent necessary. If you choose to wear something like flip-flops in this case, they will more than likely be lost in the mud and you will spend the rest of the day barefoot.
What to drink at Jazz Fest:
This is very simple. Stay hydrated! Beer booths are all over the Fair Grounds, so if you are a beer drinker, you're in luck. You may bring in your own sealed bottle of water, but no other outside drinks are allowed. Aside from beer, booths are scattered throughout the Fair Grounds selling daiquiris, margaritas, wine, water, lemonade, tea, and soft drinks.
What to bring to Jazz Fest:
There are many restricted items on the list for Jazz Fest. Here's what you can bring in:
1. A small bag or backpack - The size is 17 x 12 x 10 inches. If you bring in a bag, consider bringing the following:
a. A koozie
b. Antibacterial hand soap
c. A roll of toilet paper
2. A small ice chest - This must be a soft ice chest, and it cannot be bigger than a 12-pack-sized cooler. Inside, you can only have sealed water and ice. Again, no other outside drinks are allowed.
3. A chair - You can only bring in a single, standard, collapsible chair.
4. Blankets or ground tarps - If you are securing a spot for yourself or a group, you will want to bring in a blanket or ground tarp. The size cannot be larger than 6 x 8 feet. I would also recommend picking a color or pattern that stands out. OR, monster flags are a great way to stake your spot and give a visual marker to come back to. Finding your spot once you leave it is sometimes difficult.
Who to take to Jazz Fest:
Aside from wearing the proper clothing, choosing the right people to spend the day with is the most important thing. Most people would not think this is a big deal, but I feel like this can either make or break your day. Having a large group is always the most fun, but you have to make sure that you do not accidently allow a "Debbie Downer" into the krewe. You do not want to be with the friend who hates crowds, hates the heat, constantly complains, doesn't want to sit on the grass, can't use a port-o-let, or generally cannot sit still and just enjoy the music, the day, and the food. Based on these things, I would have never invited myself to Jazz Fest! You also do not want to be with a category five clinger.
You do want to be with people who can be on their own while you are grabbing beer or food. Bring people who are fun, relaxed, down for whatever, and have a similar plan for the day that you do—or people who do not have a plan at all. That's even better.
No matter who you go with, what you wear, what you bring or drink, have fun! That is most important. And just pay attention to these last tips, and you'll be fine:
1. The most readily available opportunity to potty is a port-o-let, so please be aware of that. There are a few actual, real, indoor bathrooms inside the grandstand area, but these are not always easy to get to and may have long lines.
2. Feel free to stake out a spot and leave your blankets and chairs to go check out some other stages. For the most part, people are respectful of other people's set-ups.
3. Take a nap, get up and dance, eat a little of everything—feel free to feel free for the day. Don't worry about the time or anything else.
4. Cell phones do not typically work very well once you get out to the Fair Grounds. So make a plan with your friends before you get out there, just in case you have to meet up and your phone isn't working.
5. Come out with a good attitude. No fighting and no complaining. Make friends with the groups around you. Everyone is there to have fun and enjoy the music. So enjoy it