On my bike the other morning I noticed a house with a Jazzfast flag flying. Behind Rouses, a Miller Lite truck proclaimed itself “The Official Drink of Jazzfest.” (Granted, that sign could’ve been on the truck all year) With Carnival Season parading off into storage units does that mean we’re in Jazzfest season? And is there such a thing? Carnival Season involves costumes, king cakes, parties and parades. In the months leading up to Jazzfest are there related celebrations? (I should note that some years Mardi Gras Day is later in the calendar, so the time between Mardi Gras and Jazzfest is truncated.)
The Seasons of New Orleans
I’ve written about how I miss the changing weather of D.C. Growing up, I found the eternal spring-summer cycle in my hometown of Miami dulling. However, New Orleans makes a slightly more differentiated spring-summer cycle by creating seasons of its own, marked by festivals and extended holiday celebrations. My blog-post hypothesis is that these festivals and celebrations create a rhythm to the year and mark time in a way that the city’s slightly colder winter and brutal summers do not.
Fall through start of Winter: Football and Christmas
September in New Orleans reminds me of living in a college town in that the whole city is galvanized by a sporting event. People here are nuts about LSU and the SEC. As a Gator I am always ruffled by LSU-ness of the celebration around here, but am grateful to be around a community that enjoys college football (and the SEC!). It’s a welcome reprise from living in D.C., which is more of a pro-sports town.
I’ve written about the Saints excitement many, many, many, many, many, many times. But this year marked the first time I watched a LOT of the NFL. It feels like you have to here, or you’re left out of cultural conversation and references. I used to only spend Saturdays at the bar to catch my college team. Now it’s all bar, all weekend… and I guess that’s New Orleans in a microcosm.
New Orleans also does a great job creating a festive Christmas atmosphere. The French Quarter Festival and The New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation organize Christmas New Orleans Style, an annual citywide celebration of New Orleans holiday activities. The festival started 27 years ago, as way to attract visitors to the city at a time when tourism traditionally dips. Throughout the month there are events around the city that remind you of the season. And even though we have had a mild winter, walking through the French Quarter in December felt like Christmas.
March is marked by St. Patrick’s Day, April by the French Quarter Festival and then Jazzfest in April/May. That’s more than enough, but I point you back to my hypothesis: Is there something that unites the season?
Now that I’ve nearly lived here a year, I recognize summer as the city’s downtime. The summer, like the spring, is punctuated by festivals and regular events, some of which I’ve blogged about here: 610 Stompers, Satchmo Fest and White Linen Night, but there doesn’t seem to be one element that captures the city’s excitement.
Update: Seasonal Beers 3/1/12
Upon relaying this post’s topic to my boyfriend, he reminded me of seasonal beers. We are lucky to have a number of great local breweries, including LA 31, Covington Brewhouse, Tin Roof and Lazy Magnolia. However, Abita is the line I’m really familiar with, and the release of their seasonal brews always mark the season for me.
January-March: Mardi Gras Bock
Spring: Strawberry Harvest
March-May: Red Ale
Summer: Satsuma Harvest Wit
Fall: Pecan Harvest
September-November: Fall Fest
November-December: Christmas Ale
When my boyfriend and I moved into our Uptown sublet in June, our summer landlord was kind enough to leave us some Strawberry ale in the fridge. When we moved out we bought a pack of Satsuma ale for her– a remnant of the New Orleans summer she had missed.
NOLA Brewery also releases seasonal beer, but I’m not as certain about the seasons they’re out because they’re a relatively new brewery. As far as I can tell:
Fall: Smoky Mary
Winter: Irish Channel Stout
January-March: Flambeau Red Ale (for Mardi Gras)
Spring: Hurricane Saison
I like the idea that we create our own seasons because the weather doesn’t really seem to do it for us. And yes, I would consider JazzFest a season for sure. Maybe not with all the events attached to it like Mardi Gras, but with the same anticipation as Christmas/Santa. Except Santa is whoever is playing on the Acura Stage on the last Sunday of the Fest! And with the exception of the Strawberry Festival, JazzFest marks my retreat into the air conditioning, not to be seen again till Halloween!
Strawberry Festival! Yes! This reminds me that 1) we need to go to Strawberry Fest and 2) I should put together a list of citywide festivals. There are a few floating around the internet.
Maybe not so much as a “Jazz Fest” season as it is a “Festival” season. They started last week and the festivals will be going full blast for a few months. Since you’re in Mid-City, be sure to catch the Bayou Boogaloo festival on Bayou St. John. I put a short list on my blog. I always go to as many festivals as I can.
Thank you so much! I am excited about Bayou Boogaloo– I saw posters from past festivals up at the Ruby Slipper and wondered when it would occur this year.