The sun is the bad guy at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
Frequent attendees know that proper preparation is key to enjoying the Jazz Fest in the sunshine. But for those who forget a hat and sunscreen, a day in the heat can be exhausting and downright painful.
Jazz Fest’s medical tent is ready for sun and more. The festival hosts two medical tents near the main stages — Gentilly and Acura — a crew of paramedics contracted through Acadian Ambulance Service, and physicians and nurses from Tulane and Interim LSU hospitals.
“I have a crew of five medical people who run the medical tent,” said Gwen Michon, who has held the title of Jazz Fest medical coordinator since 1988 and oversees the tents. “New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival has three full-time physicians who are medical directors and are on standby every day of the festival. Each day, we have approximately eight nurses and six physicians and anywhere from 30 to 40 medics.”
The nurses and physicians stay close to the tents in case somebody comes in requiring help, while the paramedics are stationed throughout the festival. Ambulances are on standby if they are required, but that is rarely necessary.
Though many might assume the energy and size of Jazz Fest would be a perfect storm for serious medical issues, that’s not the case, according to Michon.
“The common problems for Jazz Fest are mostly heat related or blisters,” she said. “We don’t really get too many serious things. Most of it is people who come from out of state and they’re not used to the heat we have here in the South.”
Typically, all that’s required is a generous dose of water and a cool, shady spot.
“Mostly, we orally hydrate them,” Michon said. “In the medical tent we have water, Powerade and fruit. And we have big fans so they can come in and get cool. Then they’re normally fine and they go back out into the crowd.”
The medical tent stays busy, hosting about 100 visitors a day for various, mostly minor, issues. Visitors come to get Band-Aids for blisters, Tylenol for headaches or to get their eyes washed because the wind has kicked up some sand from the track.
But if you want to avoid the medical tent, it helps to think ahead.
Frequent attendees may know how to prepare, but for those who have never attended Michon has some advice.
Wear appropriate shoes, she said, preferably with closed toes, like tennis shoes. Wear a hat, and wear light layers of clothing, especially if you have sensitive skin or the tendency to get sunburned.
Bring sunscreen, drink plenty of fluids, make sure you eat, and if you’re going to drink alcohol, make sure you consume as much water as possible.
Allergy problems? Bring allergy medication to combat the effects of sand, hay and dust. Try to spend time in the cool areas, and remember the grandstand is indoors and air-conditioned.
Additional shaded areas include the jazz, blues and gospel tents, where festivalgoers can enjoy the music while escaping the unrelenting sun.
Water stations can be found near the main stages, and if help is necessary, anyone with a radio can call for medical assistance.
As for alcohol, Michon doesn’t say to avoid it. But, she warned, tread carefully and drink plenty of water.
Though there some alcohol issues, she said New Orleanians tend to take care of each other.
“We do have a few alcohol-related problems, but not too many,” she said. “Most people who come to the festival are middle-aged to older-aged people, so most of them know how it works.”