The annual French Quarter Festival is a free springtime music and food celebration in New Orleans. The festival spans four days and invites more than 300 musical acts to perform in the historic heart of the city: the French Quarter. The 2018 French Quarter Festival, is the 35th annual edition and arrives on the 300th birthday of the City of New Orleans and its most famous neighborhood.
The state of Louisiana is a unique and iconic state in the Union. Admitted as the first major expansion of the young United States when President Thomas Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon’s France, Louisiana has always straddled the line between Yankee America and the Old World of Europe. In the heart of the former French provincial capital, and now the state’s largest city, the French Quarter is an archetypal piece of the Old World nestled in the heart of the New World.
Known as Vieux Carre in its original French, the French Quarter is the oldest section of the city of New Orleans. The city itself grew up in the French Quarter when Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville designed the city’s central square. As a celebration of the city’s heartbeat, the French Quarter Festival takes place each year as a free springtime musical festival that celebrates all things Louisiana. From jazz and Zydeco to rap brass, French Quarter Festival 2018 brought 300 acts and 1,700 individual musicians to the city’s center for what New Orleans does best: throw a party!
The Significance of the 2018 Edition
French Quarter Festival 2018 wasn’t just the 35th annual celebration of the city’s vibrant music scene, but the 12 April to 15 April festival just happened to be taking place during the city’s 300th birthday as well! Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville established New Orleans as the provincial capital of French Louisiana in 1718, guiding settlement of the area and laying out the street grid that still remains to this day. No other American city has reached its Tricentennial, making this year’s French Quarter Festival all the more special. So, what was new this year and what was typical for the 2018 French Quarter Festival?
VIP Passes Issued
The French Quarter is a busy place packed with foot traffic on a good day, but when the French Quarter Festival rolls around, this neighborhood of the city resembles an animal pen with people packed in and movement throughout the Quarter far from easy. For those who wanted a smoother experience with greater comfort, French Quarter Festival 2018 offered VIP passes courtesy of the Fest Family Experience. The passes were $375 and gave music lovers access to an elevated viewing stand near the Abita Beer Stage, private bars with free beer and cocktails (limited to 3 daily), free water, and air-conditioned restrooms to recover in between concerts.
A New Stage on Bourbon Street
Few streets in America see the volume of foot traffic on a daily basis that Bourbon Street does. Drivers are accustomed to the street closing on a nightly basis for bar crawlers and French Quarter revelers, and this year’s French Quarter Festival brought a new reason for drivers to avoid Bourbon Street. The iconic stretch of road was the site of a new stage this year.
Set on the 100 block of Bourbon Street, the Gateway to Bourbon Street Stage drew visitors back onto Bourbon Street during the festival. The second-line parade starts the fest each year, and this year it began to ramble through the Quarter on the 100 block of Bourbon before ending in Jackson Square.
A Stage for Student Musicians
The French Quarter Festival is first and foremost a musical celebration. This year the new Ernie’s Schoolhouse Stage at Homer Plessy Community School on Philip Street introduced a venue for the city’s up-and-coming student musicians to get some attention during the 2018 French Quarter Festival.
There’s just something about the music you’ll hear flowing out of the French Quarter on a daily basis that makes you tap your feet, snap your fingers, and bop along to the beat. This year’s French Quarter Festival wasn’t short on good tunes, but one of the many highlights was the all-Louisiana lineups that featured native sons and daughters of the state and/or city. All-Louisiana lineups that performed include the following:
- Lost Bayou Ramblers
- Irma Thomas
- Dirty Dozen Brass Band
- Partners N Crime
- Sweet Crude
- Fredy Omar con su Banda
- Amanda Shaw
- Cyril Neville
- Little Freddie King
It’s About the Music, and the Food
The vibrancy of New Orleans and the French Quarter rings out of every building in the sounds you hear, but also in the smells you take in. New Orleans is arguably America’s greatest foody city, with an eclectic mixture of Americana, Italian, French, Cajun, and Creole food coming together to tease the taste buds. The 2018 French Quarter Festival had more than 60 food vendors offering up mouth-watering New Orleans cuisine. With so many vendors to choose from, you couldn’t go wrong, but that doesn’t mean there were some worthy of a little more attention than others:
- Fresh Mango Spring Rolls for the healthy eaters
- Deep Fried Seafood Stuffed Bell Peppers
- Traditional favorites such as cochon de lait po-boys, jambalaya, and meat pies
If you missed out on French Quarter Festival 2018, there’s always next year! The festival is an annual celebration. The only thing that can stop this party is inclement weather, which did actually shut down the festival’s Saturday lineup of musicians. However, in true New Orleans style everyone was right back out in the Quarter the next day.