Workers at Bennachin Restaurant’s Jazz Fest booth were looking forward to drier weather on Sunday after Saturday’s brief but powerful storm.
The booth, which serves African cuisine from Cameroon and Gambia during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell, had some flooding, although it battened down the hatches Saturday.
The staff closed the back flap and turned off the grill. “We just shut down everything,” said Alice Mbongue, Bennachin co-owner. “We shut the gas down for the grill and just stayed in here.”
Mbongue much preferred Sunday’s forecast, which called for just a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms after 1 p.m.
“Sounds a whole lot better,” she said.
Dale Koehl, who operates WWOZ’s mango freeze booth in the long line of booths in the center of the Fair Grounds, said it’s been years since he’s seen it rain that hard at the festival.
“It was on angle, blowing through our booth,” Koehl said. “At that point you just shut down. There’s nothing much you can do. We go with volunteers, so basically I had to let all my volunteers go.”
The sudden temperature drop killed sales of mango freezes.
“The food booths,” Koehl said, “they all did really well, because as soon as the rain stopped people wanted to eat.”
The stormy weather didn’t seem to hurt crowds, Koehl said.
“You know, you buy a ticket to come out to the fest and you expect that you may get wet. With the forecast we had, you knew you were going to be in some water. And I think that’s how most people took it, because it was still packed later in the day.”
At the festival’s book tent, which is sponsored by the New Orleans Gulf South Booksellers Association and run by local independent book sellers, rain blew in from a side flap. Damage was minimal: About five books were lost.
Festivalgoers also flooded into the small book tent.
“But we all scrambled together,” staff member Rayna Nielsen said. “And the people who were stuck in here with us, the festivalgoers, they offered to help left and right. Tall guys were helping us put plastic around, so that was really great.”
Water still covered the book tent’s floor on Sunday. The tent staff is expecting s shipment of sand to help ease the saturation.
All proceeds from book tent go the local literacy programs, said Amy Loewy, manager of Garden District Book Shop.