Covering Louisiana

Apr 25, 2014 9:57 PM by katc

Acts big and small spice up Jazz Fest

Nationally famous performers including Public Enemy and Santana joined dozens of other acts showcasing diverse musical styles including gospel, blues and jazz as the 45th annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival opened in New Orleans.

The annual celebration of music, food, crafts and culture began its two-weekend run at the Fair Grounds Race Course on Friday morning.

Music on the festival's various performance stages began shortly after 11 a.m.

The New Orleans Advocate reported that the first parade of the day, featuring the Black Mohawks and Black Foot Hunters Mardi Gras Indians began winding its way through the grounds shortly after noon.

Performing at the Blues Tent, New Orleans blues man via Mississippi Little Freddie King sported purple pants and a matching vest that exposed his orange shirt sleeves. A smiling King waved and bowed after his songs. He also gave a shout-out to Jazz Fest's longtime producer-director, Quint Davis.

"First of all, I want to thank Mr. Davis for letting me be out here for 45 years today," King said.

At the Fais Do Do Stage, one of the festival's smaller venues, Geno Delafose, leader of French Rockin' Boogie, greeted the crowd. "Thanks so much for stopping by. Happy Jazz Fest," he shouted.

The festival is an economic boon to the tourist-dependent city.

This weekend, with Jazz Fest overlapping the Zurich Classic golf tournament and an orthodontics convention, hotel occupancy is projected at nearly 99 percent. The second weekend, occupancy is expected to be around 95 percent. Industry officials said there are more than 36,000 hotel rooms in the area.

Jazz Fest was a money-making opportunity for some smaller operations as well in the neighborhood surrounding the Fair Grounds, where parking is always hard to find at festival time.

Just three blocks from Jazz Fest, $20 bought visitors a legal place to park at Medard Nelson Elementary. Last year the school raised $9,000 during the festival.

"We were able to purchase new band uniforms for our marching units," principal Deidra Bradley told WWL-TV. "We also have what we call PBIS, Positive Behavior Incentive Support, we were able to take a group of our kids to Washington, D.C. with some of that money."

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