Thursday, Feb 16, 2012
As New Orleanians hit the streets for the big Mardi Gras weekend leading up to Fat Tuesday, with a dozen or more major parades set to roll, and the Mardi Gras Indians ready to march, they are also looking forward to the 2012 Festival Season. Louisiana has more community based festivals going on every year than most states do in a decade or more. All things cultural, musical, arts and crafts, culinary celebrations. For instance the Shrimp Festival, The Crawfish Festival, The Oyster Festival, The Gumbo Festival, The Cajun Festival, The Zydeco Festival, Cane River Creole Heritage Festival to name just a few of the hundreds that are deep in the cultural fabric.
I should note the Big Kahuna of Festivals near and dear to many, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Started in 1970 as a small music and cultural festival at Congo Square in Louis Armstrong park it has grown to international stature. Yet the Jazz and Heritage Foundation, a 501 C 3 nonprofit, has leveraged this success into becoming a major philanthropic force and benefactor in the community, a patron of the arts and education programs locally. It is a powerful force culturally.
Then there's the French Quarter Festival (FQF). It was originally created in response to the growth of the Jazz Fest as an alternative free music, dance, and food festival for the local community. Like all good things alternative it was discovered and has grown significantly in 20 years. However it still works well as the party for the local community appreciation, spread over the French Quarter and the Mississippi River levee. Last year there were approximately 500,000 visitors over four days. It creates huge benefits of tourism and economic stimulus to the New Orleans economy.
New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park is a regular sponsor, partner, and participant in the FQF. Every year we provide a children's stage with superb world music and cultural awareness programming, and we operate a Junior Ranger sign up and activities tent. The FQF is a great time spread over 2O stages, with a 150 musical performances scheduled for April 12 to 15 2012.
JAZZ Ranger Bruce Barnes was invited to represent the National Park Service and speak at the press and public event at Historic Jackson Square for the 2012 FQF announcement and poster unveiling. Ranger Barnes is well known throughout the community as the representative and voice of New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park. In his years of service to the community creating educational programs, and as well known and engaged as Ranger Barnes is, he has created for JAZZ a community credibility of relevance and civic engagement.
Ranger Bruce is also an accomplished, recorded, and well known zydeco musician. Bruce "Sunpie" Barnes and the LA Sunspots, also featuring JAZZ Ranger Matt Hampsey, are regular performers at the FQF and the Jazz Fest. If you'll note the smiling face on the podium poster, that's Sunpie Barnes as this year's FQF branding.