Streets Paved with Gold
French Quarter Fest poised for continued success
Springtime is festival season in Louisiana. Each one celebrates local culture and cuisine, but not every festival draws hundreds of thousands of attendees and makes a multi-million-dollar impact on the economy. The French Quarter Festival is a valuable leader on all counts.
Now entering its 34th year, what began as a small neighborhood event created by then-Mayor Ernest “Dutch” Morial to encourage locals to return to the French Quarter following the 1984 World’s Fair has become the largest showcase of Louisiana music in the world. It is also one of the largest free festivals in the country. It is second only to Mardi Gras in event size in Louisiana.
Asked about the impact of the festival, 2017 French Quarter Festivals Inc. (FQFI) board president Jeremy Thibodeaux said, “From a business standpoint, French Quarter Festival’s economic impact on New Orleans is tremendous. Everything is local — artists, chefs, suppliers, crew, even printing. Last year the festival generated an economic impact of over $188 million. Spending resulted in the creation or support of nearly 2,200 full- and part-time jobs.”
The 2016 French Quarter Festival made a measurable jolt to the New Orleans metro area economy. The festival attracted nearly 761,000 attendees who spent money on lodging, food and beverage, travel, and other entertainment beyond the free festival. The financial impact amounted to $102.3 million in direct expenditures and $86.3 million in secondary expenditures.
As to the nearly 2,200 full-and part-time jobs, they created a total of $56.6 million in earnings for New Orleans area residents. According to FQFI, the 2016 festival generated a total of $15.7 million in tax revenue for state and local governments. Of that total, roughly $9.3 million went to the state of Louisiana, and $6.4 million went to local governments in the New Orleans area.
Operating as a nonprofit organization, FQFI plays an important role as a New Orleans nonprofit as well. Thibodeaux explained, “French Quarter Festival attracts a huge out-of-town audience, yet we are proud to consistently be voted a ‘local favorite.’ One secret to our success is also one of our great achievements: commitment to our mission. FQFI is a nonprofit formed to showcase New Orleans’ culture and heritage and contribute to its economic well-being.”
Highlighting the community engagement of over 1,500 volunteers who are expected to staff the 2017 festival, Thibodeaux also spoke to the direct charitable work of FQFI and said, “Another great achievement is our musician sponsorship program. Since its inception in 2012, the initiative has raised over $1 million in contributions. Every dollar raised has gone directly to the 1,700 musicians who perform.”
He continued, “We are also pleased that our support of organizations such as Roots of Music is helping create the next generation of great New Orleans musicians, many of whom will one day play the stages at French Quarter Festival.”
To grow the festival each year takes a committed board and staff, as well as dedicated volunteers and fans. 2017 promises the return of crowd favorites as well as over two dozen debut performances by artists such as Aaron Neville. Expansion is important too, and 2017 brings the relocation of the Jack Daniels stage to JAX Brewery and a new partnership in film.
Cinema on the Bayou, founded by prize-winning Louisiana filmmaker Pat Mire, is teaming up with the festival. Thibodeaux explained, “The group will curate Whitney Bank Film Fest at French Quarter Fest inside Le Petit Theatre. Pat and his organization are top-notch, a great addition to our festival family.”
Title sponsors like Chevron, along with other sponsors and partners — as well as beverage and merchandise sales — combine to make French Quarter Festival a financial and cultural success.
The festival will run from April 6-9, 2017, with stages located throughout the French Quarter. For details on schedules, musicians, artists and participating restaurants, visit the website at fqfi.org.
Did you know?
Now in its 34th year — April 6-9, 2017
The largest showcase of Louisiana music in the world
$188 million economic impact last year (per FQFI)
Created or supported almost 2,200 full- and part-time jobs.
761,000 attendees in 2016
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.