The 50th Annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival: A Look Back at the First Festival

The 50th Annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is just around the corner, and it's a great time to look back at the festival's humble beginnings. In April 1970, the first New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival was held in Congo Square, then known as Beauregard Square, in Louis Armstrong Park. The festival was created by George Wein, the creator of the successful Newport jazz festival in Virginia, and was to be a celebration of jazz creators, along with food stalls, crafts and nightly shows. The inaugural event was attended by nearly 350 customers. Under Wein's guidance, the festival quickly grew in popularity and size.

By 1972, it had officially moved to the fairgrounds. Today, it is one of the largest jazz festivals in the world, with 12 stages of music featuring jazz, gospel, Cajun, Zydeco, blues, R&B, rock, funk, African, Latin, Caribbean, folk and more. It welcomes people of all levels to come out and enjoy its food, music and culture. The first Jazz Festival was kicked off with a midnight concert by Pete Fountain on a river boat. It ran through Sunday April 26th.

During the first few years of the festival, attendees enjoyed many perks such as free or cheap admission, Nola's leading artists and jazz greats, and the ability to enter with their own food and drink. The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation was created to oversee the Festival. The New York Times noted that it had “become inseparable from the culture it presents”. This April marks the 50th anniversary of this beloved event. If you're a true Jazz Fest fan and bought tickets for both weekends, there's no need to worry about the week in between because there's a lot to see and do. The cubes will be available first on the official Jazz Fest website found here and then here on this page once they are published. Inspired by the spirit of Mahalia Jackson and the Eureka Brass Band in 1970, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival continues to celebrate Louisiana culture with the combined fervor of a gospel anthem and the joy of a jazz parade.

Edie Aikels makes a guest appearance with the New Orleans Modern Jazz All-Stars at the Municipal Auditorium to close the second day of the first annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 1970.

Morris Ferranti
Morris Ferranti

Lifelong tv scholar. Certified web fan. Web evangelist. Friendly zombie nerd. Extreme twitter aficionado.

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