Bidding Adieu to NOLA’s Tricentennial

A year of historic celebration comes to a close.
Illustrations 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.

 

From WWOZ’s “Tricentennial Music Moments” to Nola.com’s “300 for 300,” the year 2018 has been filled with reminders from every media outlet that New Orleans had a big birthday. Public sculptures, events and museum exhibitions combined to tell the story of the Tricentennial to visitors and locals alike. Mardi Gras floats, Halloween costumes, quirky T-shirts and flags were just a few of the ways people participated in honoring the city’s founding.

The annual visitation and visitor spending numbers won’t be released until spring 2019, but it’s safe to say the Tricentennial was a draw for tourists. In January, the New York Times wrote that New Orleans was the No. 1 place to travel in 2018, citing the Tricentennial and calling the city “the ultimate melting pot.” New Orleans was also recognized in 2018 as a city to visit by The Los Angeles Times, CNN Travel, Bloomberg, Travel + Leisure, Thrillist, AARP, TripAdvisor, Fast Company and many more.

Mark Romig, president and CEO of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp. and the volunteer president and CEO of the 2018 NOLA Foundation, said, “There is enough evidence to show now that we have seen an increased interest in New Orleans and the region as a destination. The airport and cruise port continue to excel, and our summer activity was very strong.”

The 2018 NOLA Foundation is an organization that was created to support the Tricentennial and related activities. In his role there, Romig saw firsthand how the events impacted people throughout the year.

“I believe the Tricentennial has enabled citizens as well as visitors to discover a deeper and more intricate city,” said Romig. “The many events and exhibits have also offered the opportunity to not only commemorate 300 years of history but also to study all of our history and in doing so, take away lessons to help build a stronger and more equitable future for all.”

The impact of the year is just beginning to be felt, even though the work of the Tricentennial Committee concludes at the end of the year.

“The legacy of the Tricentennial will be discussed for many years,” said Romig. “We have a restored Gallier Hall; there’s been a high level of neighborhood and volunteer engagement; the visit by the king and queen of Spain; major exhibits at the Cabildo, NOMA, the Ogden Museum and The Historic New Orleans Collection; mural art by ‘Bmike Odums’ and Jamar Pierre; cultural expressions such as the Tricentennial Black Mardi Gras Indian suit (which can be seen at the Cabildo), musical works by the LPO, publications such as the LEH Tricentennial book, and the first ever Slave Trade Markers and app, to name just a few; and what I believe is a renewed sense of place and understanding of who we are as a diverse and life-loving people.”

As we close 2018, it will be interesting to see how much of the incitation from the Tricentennial celebration carries over into 2019 and beyond, and whether we can sustain and capitalize on the interest of visitors. Romig is optimistic.

“We have momentum going into the next 300 years through this past year’s efforts,” he said. “As a city we should be able to build on the enthusiasm and spirit of resilience that we continue to exhibit as citizens with a ‘can-do’ attitude.”

A native New Orleanian who just happens to announce games for the New Orleans Saints and serve on numerous local boards, Romig has an intricate relationship with the city as a whole.

“To be involved in New Orleans’ Tricentennial has been extremely humbling, personally educational and most inspiring” shared Romig. “I feel most fortunate to have been able to help our city remind the rest of the nation and the world just how uniquely special and authentic we are, and how our city has played a critical role on the world stage as a welcoming and diverse community, constantly sharing our creativity and cultural expressions with all.”

The Tricentennial year is nearly over, but the stories generated by the people who live and visit here will continue to be created and retold.