Monday, August 9, 2010

festivals

New Orleans is a city that has seen it's hard times.
and i'm not only talking about 'the storm' and its aftermath.
nola has not been a thriving city with tons of extra cash to throw around at parties or elaborate ceremonies for some time now. it is pulling through though, day by day, and somedays not making even.
but, much like the culture of the poor i studied in a course at northeastern university, new orleans does what it can with its resources and finds pleasure where it can. One place it does that is food. But, that's another post for later on. Another is in its music. Bring these two things together and you have a festival.

The Big Easy will never let a reason to celebrate pass by without a hearty festival. It does not matter that it is 100 degrees out with 100 percent humidity and a quarter of the festival-goers will pass out and need emergency services while celebrating. New Orleans is often thought of as the place where Mardi Gras lives. But, this city is full of tiny celebrations almost every few days, bringing a feeling of joy and levity to a difficult situation. We will celebrate as much as possible. No matter what. We will prevail.
This weekend was no different.

For ten years NOLA has been commemorating one of their favorite legendary musicians, Louis Armstrong. Ten years ago, the Satchmo festival was to be a one-time celebration marking (what people thought was) the centennial anniversary of Mr. Armstrong's birthday. This year it continued to party on strong. Thursday through Sunday of last week the Satchmo festival brought a huge lineup of musicians on three different stages to the French Quarter. There was also the Satchmo Strut pubcrawl around the area, which I sadly missed. I did, however, get to partake in the Satchmo festivities on Saturday. The walk from the streetcar to the festival seemed, to me, to be miles and miles (probably two blocks!) and I even had to stop for water at one point. But, having arrived, I realized it was worth it. Free music! Many of nola's best, but also bands from far away places (the dixie saints)! oh I loved that Japanese man, Yoshio Toyoma, who spoke broken English with a heavy accent but sounded just like Louis Armstrong when he sang! The Satchmo had the two big stages in the festival area and then two more down the street near the french market. There were crepes, red beans and rice, thai food, oh and so much more (of course) being sold all around. Oh, and it's not a New Orleans festival without alcohol- almost everyone had a beer- mostly Abita (I did not see a NOLA Brewery beer). I did share in Ben's grape sno-ball. But the syrup is so sweet I must say I really do like the fresh squeezed juice sno-balls far better than the average one.
Back on track- the festival was a hit. I felt like a flower wilting in the sun and could not stay too long. I did get to see children decorating their own Zulu coconuts and parasols before we left. (i have some photos but can't figure out how to get them up here- they're tooooo big).

Incase you didn't realize yet, the Big Easy does not disappoint when it comes to festivals. Proving my point, that night was the Whitney White Linen night in the Warehouse District. Ben and I rushed home for a shower and some dinner (and he snuck in calisthenics) before heading back out. The white linen night is an art event where the streets of the warehouse district are shut down, everyone dons some white linen, and we all stroll around seeing some amazing art and sipping drinks. You wonder why we would have to wear white linen during the night to keep cool? Then you have never visited the Crescent City in August where you sweat through your clothes after one minute of standing outside at ten at night. This event falls under my festival category because 1) there are thousands of people gathered together, 2) the streets are shut down for strolling, 3) there is live music (we saw a band jump off the stage and begin wandering around while playing, 4) there are huge tables set up for purchasing alcoholic drinks in true nola style. There were also people walking around naked with their bodies painted- their own form of art. While at this event Ben and I made our way into a floral shop where I was given a stargazer lily for free and our photos were taken by the shop owner. Before deciding if he would make us pay for the flower he asked, "you locals?" to which we stammered out our address. Hah!, yes. we're locals.

There is something to be said about a city with such major struggles who can party the way that New Orleans does. Some may find it offensive. Spending the time and money to rejoice and sing/dance while so much work is needed to pull the city through their difficulties. But, I believe that true New Orleanders celebrate because they understand what life is about. Nothing will get in their way of listening to the amazing music floating on the night air. Nothing will stop their dancing. They will celebrate that they have been and continue to be in a struggle, but they continue on. Maybe with some battle scars. But New Orleans is purely a city of positive-thinkers, with a festival for anyone who desires to become a part of the city. Including Ben and I.

1 comment:

  1. I can't wait to come visit you in NOLA! It's a city I've always wanted to experience, and now I have the perfect excuse to come see it for myself :)

    That festival sounds like an absolute blast!

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