Making the Quarter Melodious
French Quarter Fest celebrates a milestone birthday
When a person turns 35, they may just be hitting their stride with career, family and their community. But when a festival turns 35, it’s only due to years of previous success.
This year the free French Quarter Festival (FQF) is celebrating its 35th annual iteration of music, food and culture from April 12 to 15. The Quarter will be filled with over 700,000 attendees and music will ring out from 23 stages.
The past year has seen not only the planning of its 35th birthday, but a change in leadership at French Quarter Festival Inc., the nonprofit organization that runs FQF. President and CEO Emily Madero took over the reins shortly before the 2017 festival and has spent the past year learning a lot.
“Going behind the scenes has completely changed my perspective and helped me develop a deep appreciation for the hundreds of people and thousands of details an event on this scale involves,” shared Madero. “We are a nonprofit with a very small, yet dedicated team, but it truly takes a village to bring the festival to life. I am proud and so grateful for my team, our board, vendors and partners, all of whom are critical and now family.”
The small staff of the organization, along with hundreds of volunteers, will deliver some changes to the festival, along with the aspects fans have loved for years. A new stage, the Gateway to Bourbon Stage, will be located on the recently re-opened 100 block of Bourbon Street.
Additionally, FQF is introducing a program for fans seeking a more curated festival experience called The NOLA.com Fest Family Experience. The ticket package is available for purchase and will allow access to special viewing areas, refreshments, bathrooms and “lagniappe” swag items.
The festival is also commemorating the city’s tricentennial with fireworks on the riverfront Saturday night, a Tricentennial Homecoming Pavilion sponsored by New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation that features a hospitality lounge, the One Time in NOLA story booth and exhibits about New Orleans notables. In Jackson Square, the Hilton Tricentennial Stage will host four days of music by some of New Orleans’ most legendary artists, including Ellis Marsalis, John Boutte, James Andrews and Charmaine Neville.
Also new this year is an investment in the musicians of the future thanks to the support of the House of Blues Music Forward Foundation. The Ernie’s Schoolhouse Stage at Homer Plessey Community School at Royal and St. Philip streets will give young artists the opportunity to perform at FQF while gaining business and marketing skills to support their musical careers.
The business of music is critical to the festival’s success. It employs more than 1,700 local musicians over the course of the weekend and made an estimated total economic impact of $196 million in 2017. The draw of those working musicians equated to supporting nearly 2,200 full- and part-time jobs that created $57 million in earnings for New Orleans area residents.
There’s so much to do over the course of the festival that it can be daunting for first-time visitors. Madero has some great advice.
“Plan ahead! With 23 stages throughout the Quarter, menus from over 50 food vendors to enjoy and special events throughout the weekend, there is a lot to explore,” she said. “We just launched a new website with our map, menus and schedule to help fans navigate all the Fest has to offer. Our goal is to showcase the culture and heritage of this unique city, contribute to the economic wellbeing of the community and uplift the people of New Orleans. If we can make it great for locals, we know our guests will love it too!”
To make it even easier to plan, FQF has created an app for smartphones this year. To download the app, purchase VIP tickets and find more information on the music schedule and food vendors, visit frenchquarterfest.org.