Jackson Square is at the center of the party during the French Quarter Festival. // © 2013 Zack Smith
The French Quarter Festival began as a way of luring New Orleans residents back to the Vieux Carre, a popular spot for tourists. What started as a local event, however, has grown into one of the city’s largest festivals, attracting participants from around the world. In 2012, for instance, the festival attracted more than half a million local and out-of-town visitors.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the French Quarter Festival, to be held Thursday through Sunday, April 11-14, at various venues throughout the oldest neighborhood of New Orleans. As in years past, the emphasis of the springtime fete is to showcase New Orleans’ musicians, artists and culinary experts.
And, best of all, the event is free. In fact, the French Quarter Festival is now the largest free music festival in the South.
There will be 20 music stages featuring more than 1,400 Louisiana artists, with one International Stage offering bands from around the world performing traditional jazz. Musicians scheduled to perform include George Porter Jr. & Runnin’ Pardners, Raw Oyster Cult, the Dixie Cups, Harmonouche, Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers, Preservation Hall-Stars, Walter “Wolfman” Washington, Chubby Carrier, Delfeayo Marsalis & the Uptown Orchestra, Al “Carnival Time” Johnson and Dr. Michael White, to name a few.
Special this year is the Chevron Evening Concert Series on April 12-14, featuring a second-line parade followed by music from the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Grammy Award-winners BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet and Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience.
One of the festival’s highlights is The World’s Largest Jazz Brunch, featuring more than 60 restaurants and food vendors including Galatoire’s, Muriel’s, Jacques-Imos, Boucherie, John Folse’s Restaurant R’evolution, K-Paul’s, Tujague’s and the Praline Connection. Look for South Louisiana trademark dishes such as crawfish crepes and bisque, cochon de lait po-boys, oysters Bonne Femme and a variety of New Orleans signature cocktails. The brunch is served from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily during the festival at Jackson Square and Louisiana State Museum’s Old U.S. Mint, and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Woldenberg Riverfront Park, except for Sunday when the entire festival closes at 7 p.m.
Festival activities include free dance lessons in a variety of styles, including second-line dance classes, children’s activities on two stages and a film series titled “TimeCode: NOLA” that focuses on the creativity of New Orleans through music and film.