New Orleans festivals booming as Jazz Fest starts

By Stacey Plaisance

Associated Press

Published: Monday, April 23 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

French Quarter Festival included more than 100 Louisiana Cajun, zydeco, jazz and blues acts on 22 stages strung throughout the historic French Quarter in such places as Jackson Square, the open-air French Market and the grassy park space along the Mississippi River. Visitors came from all over.

"The diverse bands, the jazz and blues, there's no better place to find that than here in New Orleans," said Ken Louis of Afton, Wis., while sipping a cold beer as a jazz band played in Jackson Square.

"It kind of greases the skids for Jazz Fest and all the other music festivals," said Ron Ondechek Jr. of Denver, who called himself an avid fan of the city's festivals. "There's lots of art, lots of people, lots of music. It's just a great place to relax."

But the events are also big business. "Festival season is a lot of fun and a big draw, but in terms of dollars, it is a major economic impact to the city," said Kelly Schulz of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"Visitors are here," she said. "They're staying in our hotels. They're eating in our restaurants. They're shopping in our stores. They're supporting other businesses too that people might not think of, the bikes, the shuttles, people that rent scooters around the city. There are so many aspects to the tourism industry, and when you've got major festivals like that, it really benefits the entire city."

More than 8 million people visit New Orleans annually, and music is the biggest draw after Mardi Gras, particularly for international visitors, Schulz said. But there are many other attractions, including a vibrant restaurant scene, the Audubon Butterfly Garden and recently expanded World War II Museum. An increase in marketing dollars from BP to the city and state following the oil spill in 2010 have also helped boost tourism in the past two years, Schulz said.

"The city," she added, "is just really hot right now."

If You Go...

NEW ORLEANS JAZZ AND HERITAGE FESTIVAL: April 27-29, May 2-6; http://www.nojazzfest.com

NEW ORLEANS CAJUN-ZYDECO FESTIVAL: June 9-10, http://www.jazzandheritage.org/cajun-zydeco

ESSENCE MUSIC FESTIVAL: July 6-8, New Orleans, http://www.essence.com/festivals/2012/essence-music-festival

SATCHMO SUMMERFEST: Aug. 2-5, New Orleans, http://www.fqfi.org/satchmosummerfest/

VOODOO MUSIC EXPERIENCE: Oct. 26-28, New Orleans, http://thevoodooexperience.com/2011/

BAYOU COUNTRY SUPERFEST: May 26-27, Baton Rouge, La., http://www.bayoucountrysuperfest.com/

FESTIVAL INTERNATIONAL DE LOUISIANE: April 25-29, Lafayette, La., http://www.festivalinternational.com/site.php

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