A Star in the East

Holiday parade returns to draw tourism to New Orleans East

Illustration by Tony Healey

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.

 

As someone who did not grow up in New Orleans, I can attest to the fact that even in small Midwestern towns, New Orleans has an iconic appeal for tourists that translates through cultural osmosis. I do not recall ever seeing a commercial on television, and there were certainly no targeted ads on social media. Rather, New Orleans appeared in novels, movies and music that told stories of ironwork balconies, streetcars and live oaks blanketed in Spanish moss, encouraging me and my friends to imagine visiting the city one day.

What happens though, when the reality of that cultural identity leaves out the richness of the dozens of neighborhoods that make up New Orleans? Most of those stories and images of New Orleans depict the French Quarter, resulting in the creation and continuation of the French Quarter as the epicenter of tourism. Businesses on Bourbon Street stand a good chance a tourist will walk past their windows. The same cannot be said for the businesses on Read Boulevard.

That is where the work of business leaders and elected officials comes in. Capitalizing on the holiday spirit, District E Councilmember Cyndi Nguyen and partners are bringing back a holiday event this month for the second annual Jingle on the Boulevard Parade on Saturday, Dec. 14, at 12 p.m. in New Orleans East.

Founded by Councilmember Nguyen in 2018, The Jingle on the Boulevard Parade returns with the goal of creating family fun experiences in New Orleans East while enhancing economic development and tourism activities to promote the businesses located in “The E.”

“District E has taken a proactive approach to ensure that the community maintains its identity and expands economic development and tourism activities within the city of New Orleans, District E,” said Councilmember Nguyen. “Jingle on the Boulevard is now included as one of the many cultural events presented in the city to improve the quality of life for local residents and ensures a steady flow of tourism into the city.”

The parade will be produced for the second year by Versatile Entertainment Inc., a New Orleans-based company that specializes in event planning, artist development, artist management and marketing. Ryan D. Warner, president and CEO of Versatile Entertainment, said approximately 5,000 spectators watched the parade last year, and this year they anticipate close to 7,000 spectators, many of whom will be visitors.

“Our desired outcomes for drawing tourism to the East are improved infrastructure, employment, better quality of life, culture preservation and to increase revenue for businesses,” said Warner.

Event organizers are looking at various factors to measure the success of the parade. They plan to track spending at retail shopping locations, on food and beverage, at nightclubs, lounges and bars, on transportation and on lodging. To encourage tourists to stay in New Orleans East, they have created partnerships with Wyndham Garden New Orleans East and Country Inn & Suites by Radisson New Orleans I-10 East.

The parade route itself will highlight retailers and restaurants from Crowder Boulevard to Hayne Boulevard, to Read Boulevard, stretching to the site of the former Lake Forest Plaza. While the route is mostly residential, some of the businesses that will get a boost include Whispers on the Lake, PJ’s Coffee, Cajun’s Seafood and Waffle House.

The Jingle on the Boulevard Parade will feature floats, dancing groups and marching bands from local organizations and schools. Confirmed participants include Royal Heat Dance Team, Passion Dance Center, BusyBodies Dance Company Inc., Dream Dolls, Friends of King, Encore Academy, KIPP East Primary School, Alcee Fortier Alumni Drum Section, Hott Rodd Productions and Ruff Ryders, with many more groups planned. The parade will also have Santa Clause and holiday characters, and promises surprise celebrity guest appearances as well.

Jingle on the Boulevard Parade will line up at Crowder Boulevard and Morrison Road in New Orleans East and rolls at noon on Saturday, Dec. 14. For more details, visit jingleontheboulevard.com.