New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is a yearly celebration of music and culture that takes place in New Orleans, Louisiana. The festival is also known as Jazz Fest, which also refers to the days leading up to the festival and the shows performed at unaffiliated New Orleans nightclubs during the festival weekends.
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is held every year on the last weekend of April and the first weekend of May between 11 AM and 7 PM at the Fair Grounds Race Course. The Fair Grounds Race Course, also known as the New Orleans Fair Grounds, is a racetrack operated by Churchill Downs Louisiana Horseracing Company.
The festival brings in tons of tourists every year and is very economically important to New Orleans, only rivaled by Mardi Gras. The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival brings in about $300 million to the city each year. While early Jazz Fests typically only featured local acts, as the event became more and more popular, the festival started to include nationally known acts as well.
The festival has been held every year since it was founded in 1970 by the New Orleans Hotel Motel Association. George Wein was contracted to produce the festival and assembled advisors and curators to help. The festival organizers went to clubs to hire performers rather than concentrated tourist areas such as Bourbon Street since it was in these clubs that the inspiring music was being produced.
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation Archive contains the recordings from musicians that performed at the festival, as well as other relevant documents and photographs related to the Festival and Foundation.
Before the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival was established, during the 1960s similar jazz festivals were held. Then, in 1970 and 1971 the first two Jazz Fests were held at Louis Armstrong Park, in Congo Square, and the New Orleans Municipal Auditorium. In 1972, Jazz Fest started being held at the New Orleans Fair Grounds and Racetrack, which is located on Gentilly Boulevard, about 10 minutes from the French Quarter. The New Orleans Fair Grounds and Racetrack is considerably larger than Congo Square, which is why it was chosen to be the location for Jazz Fest once the organizers realized how popular it was.
The first Jazz Fest, held in Congo Square, was minimally advertised and only cost $3 to get in. The event only had one Gospel Tent and four open stages, many of which didn’t even have microphones.
The Jazz & Heritage Festival is owned by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation. The Foundation uses the festival’s proceeds to fund community development programs in areas such as economics, education, and culture. The foundation also owns the Jazz & Heritage Gallery, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the Jazz & Heritage Foundation Archive, the Jazz & Heritage Center, the Jazz & Heritage Gala, and the Jazz & Heritage Radio. The nonprofit part of the organization has given over $1 million in grants to schools, artists, and musicians in New Orleans since 1979.