La Vie de Ville: French Quarter Fest bursts with music, food and fun

The largest free festival in the South concluded four days of music Sunday and not even torrential downpours could put a dent in the record number of festival attendees enjoying the celebration this year.

There are no tickets sold for this festival and economic success is largely measured in terms of hotel occupancy, restaurant and vendor sales. By those measures, the 2013 French Quarter Festival once again hit it out of the park.

The festival that was originally conceived for locals to enjoy their culture has exploded into an international attraction for visitors seeking to inhale as much of New Orleans as possible.

Some of the festers I spoke with planned to stay over in the city until the start-up of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. That surprised me since Jazz Fest doesn’t start until April 26!

Once the weather cleared, Sunday afternoon turned out to be a picture-perfect day to enjoy the last day of festivities in the Quarter.

Jazz trumpeter Jeremy Davenport was packing them into Jackson Square with his band-band performance on the big stage. At the art show in Pirates Alley, artist Gerry Claude explained, “Crowds were huge all weekend long.”

The music menu on tap at French Quarter Fest was as varied as your imagination. While the big names performed on the main stages, there was plenty to please at the smaller streets-side stages.

I happened on the music of The Hawaiians, a band led by veteran musician Tim Paco. Paco is a man of many talents who is best known in jazz circles for his aplomb on the upright bass. This is his band and on this day, he was demonstrating his mastery of the most often misunderstood ukulele.

The final destination on my checklist for the day was the school grounds of KIPP McDonogh 15. The public school for the creative arts, which is located within the historic French Quarter, was busy raising some much needed revenue to support and continue its programming.

“All of the revenue generated within these gates goes directly back into funding our program,” explained event organizer and McDonogh 15’s Operations Director, April Griffith. “Every vendor here has agreed to donate 100 percent of their proceeds.”

French Quarter Fest has certainly grown up over the years, but even 30 years can’t diminish its charm and popularity among the locals. Where else in the country can you take in so much music, enjoy such wonderful food, and partake in my favorite past time of people gazing for free? Rest up, New Orleans, and get ready for the one of the world’s greatest parties, the Jazz & Heritage Festival.

For more information on French Quarter Festival and other events under their umbrella, visit http://www.fqfi.org.

La Vie de Ville captures city life New Orleans style every Thursday in The Advocate New Orleans Community News Section. Please email information on your upcoming event to robertagrove@hotmail.com.