Sunny skies, the sound of loud music and the smell of crawfish wafting through the air made it clear Sunday that it’s festival season in New Orleans.
Of course, so did the line of severe thunderstorms that drove through the area a few hours earlier, fortunately when the crowds were almost all indoors.
With French Quarter Festival clearly winning the spring crap shoot of weather Sunday, crowds packed the riverfront, Jackson Square and much of the French Quarter for the free event's 36th year, with a music lineup including Bonerama, Jeremy Davenport and the Bucktown All-Stars featured across more than a dozen stages around the Quarter.
Brendolyn Dolliole, 70, danced through the crowd Sunday swinging a palm frond near the Tropical Isle Hand Grenade stage on the riverfront, enjoying the day as a blessing following Palm Sunday service at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church.
“It stormed last night, but the Lord cleared it up for us today,” Dolliole said. “Couldn’t ask for nothing better than this.”
Dolliole said she comes to French Quarter Fest every year and tries to make it out to every festival that she can.
Bruce King, who lives in the 7th Ward, tries to do the same.
“Every year since they’ve started here, we’re just out here almost every day,” said King, who attends with his brothers “Buster” King and “Tank” Soniat. “Just to look at the people, see the city come to life — I mean it’s full of life, full of history.”
King said he and his brothers were worried the festival might not have come off as planned Sunday because the rain was so heavy during a brief portion of the overnight hours.
“I think we’re blessed,” King said of the weather.
It was easy for the Kings and Dolliole to have a good time Sunday, with plenty of music to listen to, food to eat, drinks to consume and crowds to people-watch. Some at the festival were a little less impressed by all that — but there was a tent for them, too.
That tent featured a theme far away from the French Quarter and New Orleans, bringing participants to places like Europe and Africa.
In a “world’s fair” kind of way, at least.
The Chevron Children’s STEM Zone tent had projects for kids themed for each continent, allowing them to build fire-breathing dragons in Asia and lead robotic research in Antarctica.
Marcy Ruello said the tent was the perfect place to bring her children, ages 7 and 4, because while she enjoys the festival, her kids have other ideas of fun. “It’s great, because they needed a little stimulation, I guess,” she said.
Attendance numbers for this year’s festival will likely come out in the next couple of days.
Organizers are hoping to improve on last year’s reported total of 560,000 — lower than normal because the 2018 festival was soundly on the other side of spring weather in Louisiana. All its Saturday events were canceled after the day was washed out.
Attendance in 2017 was reported to be 700,000, a little lower than the record attendance seen in 2016, when organizers said 760,000 people showed up.