New Orleans lost a legend this year with the death of Arthur Robinson, the roving produce vendor beloved across the city and known to all as Mr Okra.
But his daughter Sergio Robinson has kept his legacy alive. She still drives her father’s colorfully-painted produce truck around New Orleans, calling out her inventory through a loudspeaker, just as he did, turning the sales pitch into a form of street music.
This weekend, she’s also driving the truck back to Jazz Fest.
Mr. Okra had become a fixture of the fest during its second weekend, parking his truck in the grass by the Jazz & Heritage stage to sell fruit. He posed for countless photos with out-of-towners, stopped in their tracks by the unexpected sight of a smiling, gray-haired man lounging in his artful truck.
His Jazz Fest appearances were a delight for his regular customers too. It was like finding a piece of your own neighborhood, your own block, installed in the middle of Jazz Fest.
Mr. Okra was part of neighborhood life for vastly different neighborhoods around New Orleans. People felt a connection to him, and it was a personal one they shared with perfect strangers.
Coming back to Jazz Fest is part of keeping these traditions rolling. Since Mr. Okra's death in February, his family has found a new appreciation for just how much he meant to so many people around New Orleans.
Many of these people have also been eager to keep the connection with Ms. Okra, the name his daughter has since acquired. She still drives down their streets, parks under their trees, awaiting the kids and retired folks and young couples, even the curious Airbnb guests snapping photos. It’s about more than getting a bag of fruit, it’s a slice of life, these curbside get-togethers facilitated by the people, the truck, the tradition.
If you haven’t caught up with Ms. Okra on her route lately, you know where you can find her during Jazz Fest.