Irma Thomas is back for Mother’s Day concert at Audubon Zoo _lowres

Advocate file photo by MATTHEW HINTON -- Irma Thomas, far right, reacts after her grandson Isaiah Emile Gibbs, 10, performs with his viola during Thomas' 30th year performing at the Audubon Zoo for Mother's Day in New Orleans in 2013.

Families will be gathering this weekend to celebrate mothers, grandmothers or great-grandmothers — or in the case of beloved New Orleans R&B singer Irma Thomas, all three.

With seven children, 15 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, the Soul Queen of New Orleans has learned a thing or two about mothering.

“Trying to be a good parent is a challenge, but it is a wonderful challenge,” Thomas said. “I was so young when I had mine, it was kind of like growing up with them. I was learning while I was teaching, so the process was never simple, but I just used what we called common sense, and it worked out pretty good.”

Once again, Thomas will be headlining the annual Mother’s Day concert at Audubon Zoo, a long-standing gig that has been part of her family’s tradition for more than 30 years.

“I love the family situation, the kids with the parents and the grandparents and, in some cases, the great-grandparents that come out and enjoy the zoo and enjoy the music,” Thomas said.

Becoming a mother at age 15, Thomas is all too aware of what a tough gig it can be for both first-time and seasoned moms. But as she has switched to the role of a grandmother, the pressure has eased, and now, she said, she gets to enjoy the children on a whole different level.

“I didn’t give my kids everything because, one, I couldn’t afford it, but I wouldn’t have anyway. My parents didn’t give me everything,” Thomas reasoned.

“But with my grandkids, it’s different. As a grandparent, you get the luxury of spoiling them and then sending them home.”

For those searching for a last-minute gift idea, Thomas offers some motherly advice.

“Do something for your mom that she can usually do for herself, like cleaning the house or cooking. While little gifts are cute, oftentimes kids buy things that you will never use. I think it’s better to take the parent out to dinner or even just to the ice cream store,” Thomas said.

Whether you choose to head down to the zoo, celebrate over a champagne brunch or stroll through boutique stores, it is easy to spoil your mom this Mother’s Day. Here’s a roundup of the day’s events.

Mother’s Day at Audubon Zoo

Spend a relaxing afternoon this Sunday soaking up the soulful sounds of Irma Thomas and The Professionals at Audubon Zoo.

Arrive early, set up some blankets and chairs beneath the shady oak trees and treat your mother to a full day of entertainment. Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns will take to the Capital One Stage at 12.30 p.m., followed by an alluring performance by Irma Thomas at 2.30 p.m.

Gates open at 10 a.m., and admission is free for mothers. If you forget to pack lunch or a gift, the zoo has you covered with an array of food and unique crafts available for purchase.

Champagne Stroll

Pop open the bubbly and stroll down Magazine Street, renowned for its boutique retail stores, galleries and restaurants, Saturday, May 10.

Mothers can enjoy shopping in the twilight hours, inspiring loved ones with last-minute gift ideas from vintage to modern clothing, jewelry, art and furniture.

Enjoy the music and special offers along the 6-mile stretch from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Steamboat Natchez Mother’s Day Brunch

Be lured by the sounds and smells of a bygone era as you drift down the mighty Mississippi River listening to Duke Heitger’s Steamboat Stompers, indulging in a delicious buffet and free-flowing mimosas and bloody marys.

The whole family can step aboard this Sunday at either 11:30 a.m. or 2:30 p.m. To reserve your seat, visit

Garden Party concerts

Gather family and friends to celebrate mom at the Botanical Gardens in City Park. Laze back on lawn chairs and blankets and soak up the sounds of the New Orleans Nightingales plus Luke Winslow King as part of the New Orleans Botanical outdoor concert series.

Gates open at 5 p.m., and it is free for the whole family to attend. A range of food options, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase.