The French Quarter Festival, one of New Orleans’ most beloved events, returns Thursday through Sunday for its 32nd weekend of music, food, culture and fun.

The quintessentially local festival features more than 300 acts, including 1,700-plus musicians on 23 stages.

The festival reaches far beyond food and music. It includes a film festival at Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre, a blockbuster interview and lecture series at the Old U.S. Mint and a variety of children’s activities.

The weekend begins Thursday at 10 a.m. with a second-line parade from the 100 block of Bourbon Street to Jackson Square. Following the festival’s first day of music, its patron party and gala at Antoine’s Restaurant begin at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. respectively. As for the festival’s four days of all kinds of music, it is, as always, free to savor.

New stages

Featuring an eclectic schedule of performances Friday through Sunday, the festival’s new Spanish Plaza Stage will expand the music beyond the Quarter to Canal Street. Artists include Egg Yolk Jubilee, King James and The Special Men, Hot 8 Brass Band; Russell Batiste and the Wild Tchoupitoulas and Big Sam’s Funky Nation.

The new Omni Royal Orleans Stage, 500 Royal St., adds more traditional jazz to the festival Saturday and Sunday via performances by The Original Pin Stripe Jazz Band; Gerald French and Friends, John Royen’s New Orleans Rhythm and more.

World’s largest jazz brunch

Cuisine plus 1,700 musicians equals a brunch of gigantic portions. Eight new restaurants join the festival this year, all them selected by a jazz brunch committee that seeks quality and authenticity. They include Patois, Rue 127, Koz’s Restaurant, McHardy’s Chicken and Fixin’ and Westin New Orleans Canal Place.

More than 60 vendors will offer classic New Orleans dishes and cuisine from the region’s best restaurants. Many of them have been with the festival since it began in 1984. Participating restaurants include Galatoire’s, Desire Oyster Bar, Court of Two Sisters, Pat O’Brien’s, Trey Yuen, Tujague’s, Vaucresson Sausage, Antoine’s and Praline Connection.

Popeyes Brass Band Jam Stage

The Popeyes Barracks Street Brass Band Jam with OffBeat Magazine state returns Friday through Sunday to the Louisiana State Museum’s Old U.S. Mint. Friday’s performances include singer-trumpeter Leroy Jones with the Original Hurricane Brass Band and the Original Pinettes Brass Band. The Stooges Brass Band headlines the Popeyes stage Saturday. Sunday concludes with Corey Henry’s Treme Funktet.

Chevron Cajun/Zydeco Showcase Stage

One of the festival’s newer stages, the especially popular Chevron Cajun/Zydeco Showcase Stage on North Peters near St. Louis Street, will run Thursday through Sunday with made-for-dancing Cajun and zydeco music. Performers from Acadiana and New Orleans include the Cajun rock band Lost Bayou Ramblers (5:30 p.m. Saturday); dynamic singer-fiddler Amanda Shaw (7:30 p.m. Saturday); and the Grammy winners Jo-El Sonnier (2 p.m. Sunday ) and Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band (5:30 p.m. Sunday).

Irvin Mayfield and NOJO residency

Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, aka NOJO, will play the festival’s first residency. The group will perform the music of Stevie Wonder, the Beatles and the Grateful Dead at 5:20 p.m. Thursday; the music of Led Zeppelin, Nirvana and Queen at 5:25 p.m. Friday; a set of children’s songs at 12:35 p.m. Saturday; and the New Orleans Songbook at 2:10 p.m. Sunday. Many special guests are expected to join Mayfield and the orchestra throughout the weekend.

Friday at the festival is also the book launch for “New Orleans Jazz Playhouse,” Mayfield’s profusely illustrated, 304-page coffee-table book, which includes seven CDs of music recorded at the Jazz Playhouse.

The book party is at the Jazz Playhouse, housed in the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street. The Jazz Playhouse is also an official French Quarter Festival stage, featuring festival performers Friday through Sunday.

Children’s activities

The Chevron Children’s Headquarters, moved this year to the Natchez Wharf at the foot of Toulouse Street, will feature a children’s performance tent and the Chevron STEAM Zone (science, technology, engineering, arts, math).

A second children’s area is in the heart of the French Quarter at the Hermann-Grima House, 820 St. Louis St. Activities take place in the property’s historic courtyard, including music, entertainment, crafts and educational projects.

Film Fest presented by Timecode:NOLA

The festival’s free film festival, presented by the local filmmaking collective Timecode:NOLA, returns for screenings at Le Petit Theatre Friday through Sunday.

The series includes “Buckwheat’s World,” a documentary about zydeco musician Buckwheat Zydeco (11 a.m. Friday); Les Blank’s 1978 cinema celebration of New Orleans (1:30 p.m. Friday); music-documentary “Fats Domino: Walkin’ Back To New Orleans” (12:30 p.m. Sunday); and “A Tribute to Toussaint,” a concert-documentary about songwriter, pianist, producer Allen Toussaint (1:30 p.m. Sunday).

Let Them Talk: Conversations on Louisiana Music

The festival’s annual interview and lecture series puts the spotlight on Louisiana musicians and music scholars.

Held in the Old U.S. Mint, this year’s presentations include a tribute to the trumpeter Lionel Ferbos, who passed away in July at 103. The tribute will feature Ferbos’ musical colleagues Lars Edegran and Brian O’Connell (Saturday 1:30 p.m.); a salute to Big Chief Bo Dollis, the late Indian chief and singer who had such a large hand in merging New Orleans funk with Indian chant (Saturday at 2:30 p.m.).

Sunday’s “Let Them Talk” offerings include “The Magic of Cosimo Matassa,” a tribute to the late Matassa, the studio owner and engineer who recorded decades of national hits at his New Orleans recording studios, including Roy Brown’s “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” Lloyd Price’s “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” Little Richard’s “Tutti-Frutti” and Fats Domino’s “Walkin’ to New Orleans” (Sunday 12:30 p.m.). Participants include Allen Toussaint; Deacon John Moore; singer Gerri Hall (Huey “Piano” Smith and the Clowns, The Raelettes); and music historian John Broven.