The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is quickly approaching, and organizers and attendees are working out the final details. Some notable acts include Stevie Wonder, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Janelle Monae, Better than Ezra and many more. However, for those of you who have been before, and those who will be new to the scene, make sure you check out the rules because they have changed.
The festival is held at the New Orleans Fairgrounds racetrack every year and has been going on since 1970, according to the organization’s website. The cost this year is $75 at the door and $65, per day, ahead of time.
Jazz Fest organizers recently announced that this year there will be strict enforcement in keeping the dirt track as a walkway. Quint Davis, CEO of Festival Productions for Jazz Fest recently said that the new regulations are, in part, designed to “make sure that we leave the highway open and everybody can get to every stage at any time,” according to The Advocate.
Jazz Fest attendee Sandy Sommer, 54, said “I am all for the track to serve as an expressway too. I think we will be able to get from stage to stage more easily. I think the changes were needed and will improve JazzFest.”
Other than getting to the stages easily, the new changes are seen as a safety improvement as well.
Sommer says that he and his son attend every year, but “last year we were pretty much trapped at The Who show. We were there by choice yet if we had an emergency we were stuck.”
Sommer also dislikes the practice that many people have used in previous years of staking out their area and says “I’ve never been a fan of those who stake out a plot. Not just for the stake out yet also for a level of basic obnoxiousness so alleviating that is good.”
Other changes that are being instituted include expansions of the standing room only areas at the Acura, Congo Square and Gentilly stages, according to The Advocate. Further, the festival is adding bleachers between the stages and the dirt track at the Acura and Congo Square stages.
Shana Walton, a professor of English at Nicholls State University, has been studying the culture of Jazz Fest for the past decade and she says that the changes are most likely being implemented to prevent situations like the gridlock when Elton John came to play last year.
“There’s the festival produced by the foundation and the producers and there’s the festival produced by all the people who go,” she said.
While she doesn’t know what the effect of these regulation changes will be, she believes that festivalgoers will still enjoy the event because “they themselves are creating community.”
“They come, they hold family reunions, they have raised their children at the festival, they’ve gotten married at the festival, they sprinkle the ashes of their deceased partners at the festival,” Walton said. “They’ve created community and they’ve created culture and … it’s not necessarily about who’s on stage.”
She said people have their rituals at Jazz Fest. Some people would tell her “after I go for my Cochon De Lait po’boy, then I go meet my friend, then we go listen to something.” She says this means that it’s less about what artists are performing and more about the experience.
As one person told Walton in an interview, “We come for the people.” So, whether you support the new regulations or not, the important part about the festival is to enjoy yourself and to reconnect with some great friends.