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NO Jazz & Heritage Festival, 2007.375,000 Attendance (Largest Since 2003)..50 Photos

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We had a very fun and successful Jazz Fest, 2007 in New Orleans. Again, I chalked up some great times and memories with many friends and family....

Overall attendance of 375,000 is highest since 2003 Monday, May 07, 2007By Katy Reckdahl
Last year, Michelle Loughnane was living out of suitcases as she labored over a handmade umbrella, made from scraps of blue FEMA tarp. This year, she and her son were living in their own apartment as she created this year's masterpiece with alternating panels of sunflowers and brass instruments, and melon-colored beads dangling from its edge.

The school counselor and her 7-year-old son, Maxwell, spent Jazzfest's final day dancing beneath that umbrella, crafted to symbolize the rebirth and reblossoming of the city.

They joined thousands of locals and tourists clogging the Fair Grounds to take a final gulp of the festival's sights and sounds before bidding it goodbye for another year. Officially, attendance for the two weekends was 375,000, the highest it's been since 2003, said Louis Edwards, associate producer of promotions for the festival.

Kellie and Robert Simpson contributed five people to that count as they walked through the gates on Sunday, their 3-year-old triplets in tow. With the two girls in floppy hats and the boy in a Mickey Mouse visor, the tiny trio were prepared for the day, water bottles strapped across their shoulders.

"They're used to it," said their mother, who began bringing the triplets to festivals just months after their birth. "It's become a routine."

A short distance away, inside the grandstand, only half of the gray folding chairs were filled in front of the Allison Miner Music Heritage Lagniappe stage.

But those in the small audience clapped wildly when the vocalist for the University of New Orleans Louis Armstrong Jazz Quintet dedicated "Sleepytime Down South" to Alvin Batiste and "his long, rich, beautiful musical life." Batiste, a well-known modern jazz clarinetist, composer and educator, had died early Sunday of an apparent heart attack.

"God bless Alvin Batiste," said 82-year-old bassist Chuck Badie during his interview on the Allison Miner stage, then pointed at a woman in a pink hat, sitting in the front row. "That looks like Joe Jones' daughter," he said. It was.

"I feel this connection to these older musicians -- they're like my uncles," said Jennifer Jones, whose father, Joe Jones, was first a musician, playing piano on hits such as "You Talk Too Much," but then became a hit-maker, producing and managing the Dixie Cups, among others.

All day long, this close-knit musical community waved at old friends in the audience, talked about musicians past and present and, often, dedicated songs to Batiste, who had died the day he and eminent drummer Bob French were to be feted at the Jazz Tent by Branford Marsalis, Harry Connick Jr. and others. The parade of musicians paying tribute to Batiste on Sunday afternoon was matched by the audience, which stood shoulder to shoulder, packing the tent with bright-patterned shirts and straw hats.

Just to the left of the Jazz and Heritage Stage, there was a blur of pink as the Lady Buckjumpers Social Aid and Pleasure Club, accompanied by the all-woman Pinnettes Brass Band, finished the festival's hourly parade. Each member of the Buckjumpers was dressed in a pink pantsuit and accessorized in the color, from corsages to sunglasses, toenail polish to paper Asian-style umbrellas.

Buckjumper Linda Porter said that it felt good to parade soon after the federal-court victory that cut the clubs' parading fees in half. "This city needs to know that the clubs mean a lot to New Orleans," she said. "We're preserving the culture."

This year's event may not have been as emotionally raw as last year's first post-Katrina festival. But still, there was something missing.

Linda Green said she saw lots of displaced people at her food booth, where she sells her legendary yaka mein.

"Oh Lord, I've seen so many," she said. "They're trying to come home, trying to get that Road Home money. I tell them, 'We built this city. Come home.' "

Jazzfest visitor Brian Barnes flew in from Portland, Maine, but he was born and raised in New Orleans, and many of his relatives still lived in the Pontchartrain Park area during the hurricane, he said.

So Barnes spent his vacation living like a native New Orleanian -- in a FEMA trailer. On Saturday night, he'd plunged the sewage system and he'd spent his vacation bathing in the too-snug shower stalls. It was OK, he said. "But I get to leave tomorrow. Everyone else has to stay."

"Come home, everybody come home," sang Allen Toussaint for his finale on the Acura stage. He rattled off local temptations -- "Come home to a shrimp po-boy, dressed" -- and then began calling out names of absent friends, including Aaron Neville, Cyril Neville and Charles Neville, who for years closed out the festival on that very stage.

This year, Harry Connick Jr. topped off that stage. At one point, he sat at his piano and took a few moments to talk about his hometown and the project he and Branford Marsalis have helped to promote, the Habitat for Humanity Musicians' Village.

"As wonderful as the village is and as wonderful as all the other efforts are, we have a long way to go to bring our beloved city back," he said.

. . . . . . .

Katy Reckdahl can be reached at [email protected] or (504) 826-3300.

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I wish I could have gone. My boss went, he's originally from Holland, and this was his first time to New Orleans. Now he thinks it's the greatest city in America...and I agree with him. HEHE
Very nice! I should have gone, simply forgot about it.
Next year I WILL be there!
Wow, what a bunch of great photos!!! Sounds like a huge festival and the number of attendants is very encouraging, too :eek:kay:
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