Light My Fire

Algiers Bonfire & Concert bring hot tunes and literal flames to the banks of the Mississippi.
Nola Burners and artist Brennan Steele

Sometimes Louisiana is just plain weird to the people who visit. Our foods, our languages and our traditions all inspire tourists to ask a lot of questions. The holiday season brings even more unique practices and one of my favorites is the lighting of bonfires along the levees of the Mississippi River.

As an old European custom historians date to the 1720s, the river is alight along its banks every Christmas Eve with wooden structures built to over 30 feet in height. While it’s probably related to celebrating harvests, I prefer the story that the bonfires light the way for Santa Clause, or Père Noel as he might be referred to down here.

New Orleans has its own version of the practice and it’s free and open to all. The Algiers Bonfire & Concert will take place this Friday, Dec. 5 and celebrates the community that while on the west bank of the river, is still officially part of New Orleans.

The party starts at 5:20 pm with a performance by Michael “Soulman” Baptiste. He is followed by King James & The Special Men at 6:35, and then the Edna Karr High School Band will thrill the crowd and get folks wishing for Mardi Gras.

The real star of the show is the 30-foot tree sculpture created by Nola Burners and artist Brennan Steele. An impressive animated rendering of his design can be found here. At approximately 8:30 all of Steele’s hard work will go up in flames as the Fire Department lights the bonfire and is on-hand to control the blaze.

Sitting on the levee and watching the bonfire, with the city glittering across the river and ships moving up and down the Mississippi, is truly one of the most breathtaking sights I’ve ever experienced.

Local vendors and food trucks will be on hand, and various small businesses are in easy walking distance for dinner and libations. Ferry service has recently been extended, making it an easy and scenic trip across the river from the foot of Canal Street.

The official address is 200 Morgan Street but remember to walk up and over the levee to get to the festivities. Just follow the crowd and the sound of our talented musicians.

 

 

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