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It Ain't My Fault

You don’t need an excuse to indulge in gumbo and brass bands at the Tremé Creole Gumbo Festival Nov. 18 and 19.



Most cities have something every-one can agree to fight about. In Chicago Northsiders and Southsiders have strong opinions as to which baseball team is the best. In Los Angeles arguments about the best routes to drive were famously parodied on Saturday Night Live. New Orleans is no different, although our most strongly held opinions usually pertain to recipes and our shining star is the muddy color of roux.

The 10th annual Tremé Creole Gumbo Festival on Nov. 18 and 19 provides attendees with the chance to compare and contrast our native dish, learn about its history and do so while experiencing one of the best brass band showcases on the planet.

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, the nonprofit that owns the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, has grown the free Gumbo Festival tremendously over the past 10 years. It began as a small holiday bazaar to sell off surplus Jazz Fest t-shirts for $5 so that people could replenish their collections lost in Katrina. The festival was such a success that they did it again the following year and added food and music. The current location, Louis Armstrong Park, provides a beautiful setting with plenty of space to enjoy the bands and the food.

The combination of gumbo and brass bands in one event provides a wonderful opportunity for visitors and locals to immerse themselves in intrinsic cultural touchstones for New Orleans.

“They’re both pretty iconic to New Orleans, so I would imagine that they are a big part of the attraction for tourists generally,” said Scott Aiges, director of programs, marketing and communications at New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, referring to the combination of gumbo and brass bands. “We very purposefully created a festival that celebrates both of them, both to celebrate them for our local audience and to create a destination for visitors who want to sample lots of them all in one place.”

Approximately one dozen food vendors will participate and offer gumbo in more varieties than your mama thinks is appropriate. Gumbo z’herbes, shrimp and oyster, chicken and andouille, Creole filé, dark roux, gluten-free and even vegan options will be on sale. All of that in addition to a food court that will include New Orleans soul food classics.

New this year is the first annual Gumbosium, which will include cooking demonstrations and thoughtful discussions (or should I say, playful arguments) about gumbo. Aiges is planning a “Creole vs. Cajun Gumbo” cook-off, with two side-by-side cooking demonstrations highlighting the similarities and differences in the two styles. Expect the topic of tomatoes to draw a passionate response.

The brass bands will be just as hot as the gumbo. The lineup for Saturday, Nov. 18, includes: Tuba Skinny; Tremé Brass Band; Original Pinstripe Brass Band; Free Agents Brass Band; and To Be Continued (TBC) Brass Band.

On Sunday, Nov. 19, please your ears with: Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) Brass Ensemble; Pinettes Brass Band; Hot 8 Brass Band; the debut festival appearance of the Trumpet Mafia; and the Grammy-Award-winning Rebirth Brass Band.

More than 10,000 people are expected to attend the festival over the course of the weekend, making a tremendous economic impact for food vendors, 35 craft vendors, musicians and area businesses. The Jazz and Heritage Foundation produces this festival as part of its mission to serve the community, so while it doesn’t make a profit on the event, the foundation works to enable others to do so.

While the details are confidential, Aiges said, “We do have a strong interest in the economic impact on the community of the free festivals and we keep as much data as possible… Suffice it to say that some of the vendors do really, really well – which is what we want. We purposely keep the cost of a food booth or a crafts booth very low so that we can help our vendors make a profit.”

The Tremé Creole Gumbo Festival is Saturday, Nov. 18, and Sunday, Nov. 19, from 11:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. each day at Louis Armstrong Park at 701 N. Rampart Street. While admission is free, donations are encouraged. For information on the lineup, vendors, parking and more, visit tremegumbofest.org.


Jennifer Gibson Schecter was once a tourist in New Orleans herself and is now proud to call NOLA home. She also writes the Wednesday Tourism Blog on BizNewOrleans.com.
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