The first weekend in May means New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival time for me…in fact, this year was my 27th time attending the festival. Each year, it’s a form of homecoming when I get to the venue and see my favorite food vendors, the stage layout, and some of the artists I know who sell their work. It also sparks jubilation for me because the musical acts change annually, and new food, crafts, and artists arrive each year. The event lasts 4 days, from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM daily, so pacing is key, with lots of walking, dancing, eating, shopping, and a dose of wandering thrown in. In addition, each year, a foreign country is selected and the musicians and foods of that region are invited to participate. For 2017 it was Cuba.
Discovering new musicians is an incredible joy for me. On this trip, I got to discover Willie Sugarcapps, Luke Winslow King, Dale Watson, and Sweet Cecelia. I also danced, hooted, and hollared to some of my favorites again, such as Jonathan “Boogie” Long, Tab Benoit, Johnny Sansone, Amanda Shaw, The Revivalists, Corinne Bailey Rae, and Buddy Guy. If you haven’t heard of these folks, check them out.
I met a new craft artist this year, named Stephany Lyman, who makes purses out of used cowboy boots. Her company SideKick is dedicated to her little sister, Maria, who was her sidekick in life, before she passed away. A portion of all bags purchased goes to Grace House, New Orleans, where women are guided on their path to recovery.
One of my favorite craft and jewelry artists that I make sure to visit every year is Chester Allen, whose company is called Universal Groove. Several years ago I bought a ring from him that was made out of key boards salvaged from Katrina. This year I bought some brilliant garnet pieces. His philosophy is to always “go off the page.” For fine jewelry, I love to stop by and take a peak at the gorgeous pearl pieces that Ashleigh Branstetter has designed. She’s a local artist and I treasure every item that I have of hers. Since my anniversary falls over Jazzfest, Scott has treated me to several surprises from Ashleigh.
At night, I have dinner with friends at spots around town. Sometimes we book a private room and go all out with a set menu, wine, and many courses. After all, NOLA is a city with food unlike any other. At R’Evolution, we had venison carpaccio edged with espresso and topped with shaved chocolate! We have a foie gras platter that was the size of a small table. We had puppy drum, and I don’t even know what that is.
Shopping in the city is best done on Magazine Street where small boutiques line both sides for miles. I found a new store named West London BTQ and bought the most darling outfit.