Moving into Louisiana following our slow trek through the Florida Panhandle, we arrived in the Bayou Segnette State Park west of New Orleans. Rarely, it seems, is our timing as perfect. Without our knowledge, we lucked into the Thirteenth Annual Satchmo Summerfest.
The event celebrates the birthday and music of Louis Armstrong, the man responsible for making New Orleans “the birthplace of jazz.” Located at the Louisiana State Museum Old Mint in the French Quarter, music was presented on two stages for the free three-day festival. Traditional jazz, contemporary jazz, blues, brass bands and ragtime were among the musical selections.
|Yoshio Toyama and the Dixie Saints|
Our highlight of the festival was Yoshio Toyama and the Dixie Saints. This Japanese trumpeter along with his wife, Keiko, playing the piano and the banjo, and four other exemplary band members played Louis Armstrong with flare, providing a running history and humor along with the music. Yoshio is a great Armstrong impersonator, we were shocked when he belted out some of the entertainers well-known pieces, like Hello Dolly.
Yoshio and Keiko first came to New Orleans back in 1968 to learn to play traditional jazz but moved back to Japan in 1973. Since a return trip to the Big Easy, in 1994, they have actively raised money and collected instruments (almost 800 so far) for needy youths in the area through their Wonderful World of Jazz Foundation. They now return annually for the Satchmo Summerfest and the crowd loves them.
Inside the building, seminars or lectures were offered on various aspects of the music industry, Louis Armstrong and jazz. Traditional New Orleans foods were offered for purchase on the grounds of the event. Alan even had an opportunity to enjoy beignets on site, after being deterred by the long lines and crowd at the famous Cafe du Monde. In spite of temperatures soaring into the high 90’s with the heat index up in the 100’s, the event still drew a large and enthusiastic crowd. We spent several hours each day listening to the phenomenal talent offered and departed only to explore other aspects of the city.
Creole and Cajun cuisine of New Orleans is a blend of French, African, Spanish, Portuguese, and Native American influences, but also incorporates the local seafood. Our first evening along the infamous Bourbon Street, we enjoyed crawfish etouffee and fried oysters. Excellent food is found throughout the city but there is a high concentration of renowned eateries within the French Quarter. Bourbon Street is not a family-type destination; it is a non-stop party. Bars, many providing live entertainment, serving frozen drinks and $3 shots line the street, broken up by the restaurants and occasional strip clubs and a few gay discos. During the evening the street is closed and street performers provide additional entertainment. Leaving one establishment with a “to go” cocktail, walking along Bourbon St. and entering another bar is accepted practice.
Of course, New Orleans is not just about music, food and partying. Also located within the French Quarter, a portion of Royal Street is closed every afternoon from 11 A.M. to 4 P.M. to create a shopping mall. Lined with first rate art galleries and antique shops, this street draws the art lover. Street performers frequent this area as well.
Even though tourism dominates the economy of the city due to the draw of the French Quarter and riverboat gambling, New Orleans has a large industrial presence. Oil and gas related activities, (which results in lower gas prices in the state) the port, ship and boat building are also important factors.
We enjoyed our visit to the city and stocked up on local crawfish, blue crab and shrimp, so we can continue to enjoy harvest from the region as we continue our travels west.
|Second line parade to Summerfest|
|Ladies from the parade|