The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival kicked off Friday. Beautiful weather greeted the crowds with their hats and folding chairs as they streamed through the gates at 11 a.m.
Some turned their heads at road crews still working on Esplanade Avenue.
Construction on long-term street projects has slowed down for the festival, and Esplanade will remain open to traffic throughout.
The city urges festival goers to take public transportation. That includes the streetcar or extra public buses the city has added for the event. The City of New Orleans Taxicab and For Hire Bureau says fares to or from the Fairgrounds are $5.00 per passenger or the metered fare, whichever is greater. There’s also improved access for bicycles, and disabled patrons at this year's festival.
Once ticketholders get inside, they’ll find the usual smorgasbord of music, food, art and culture.
The festival’s annual international theme is taken over this year by a Native American area. A local performer and storyteller is one of the coordinators. Greyhawk Perkins is Houma and Choctaw from in Louisiana, born in New Orleans.
Perkins says the Native American presence includes folk traditions, music and crafts from 25 native groups around the country. He says the audience might be surprised by the range of what’s on offer.
“Visitors will go from one vendor to another and they’ll find if they ask questions, they’ll find they get different answers," he said. "Because our tribes, our nations, are as different as night and day, with different languages and different customs.”
Just a few feet away from Perkins, the Semolian Warriors Mardi Gras Indians kicked off the Jazz and Heritage Stage.
Festival Productions never ventures to guess ticket sales in advance. But the Jazz Fest lineup for Saturday — including Billy Joel — promises to draw even more crowds. Especially if the weather holds.