Saturday, April 10, 2010

New Orleans Jazz Fest

We cannot wait to go back to the New Orleans Jazz Fest in New Orleans Louisiana again (  Jazz Fest is a wonderful music Festival that takes place over two weekends the end April, beginning of May.  Most of the festivities are located on the infield of a racetrack (horses, I believe), and feature all kinds of popular music and acts from Jazz to blues to rock and roll.  There are also special groups invited to highlight the music from a particular country or region.  The feeling is friendly, Louisiana and international all at the same time.  Other Jazz Fest concerts take place in the evenings at locations around the city, but I'd rather use the evenings to enjoy New Orleans.  After a long day in the New Orleans April sun (or in a torrential April downpour!), perhaps nothing beats a relaxing meal and one of New Orleans’ marvelous restaurants.

We first went to Jazz Fest many years ago when I was still gamely navigating with the help only of a cane.  Laura was quite worried about my range and stamina given the large venue.  When we walked onto the racetrack, not really knowing what to expect, we were impressed by the layout, the prepared program and the amenities.  We're also curious to see that The Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association was offering the free use of a wheelchair to any self identifying handicapped visitor.  I immediately scoffed at the idea and headed off toward the infield.  Less then 15 minutes later I had acceded to reason and was back acquiring a wheelchair for the day.  It was a hard decision for a prideful man, but it really enhanced my enjoyment of the day, and mere words cannot describe the boon it was to Laura.  Sure she had to push, but we were able to move fast without worry.  She readily traded worry and fretting about my mobility for the effort of pushing me around between the various tents and stages.

The Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association got a nice donation in the bargain; perhaps we should remember to make another donation now and then.

The organizers of Jazz Fest seemed to make every effort to think of the things that patrons in wheelchairs require to enjoy the day listening to good music, eating much better than expected Festival food, and appreciating the works of the juried artists.  In the tent venues, where seating is provided, plentiful good seating is reserved for wheelchair patrons and their companions.  There are wheelchair accessible port-a-johns, and by the second time we attended, several years later, these were kept locked.  Those of us in wheelchairs were issued keys on entering the venue.  This really helped keeping the lines short, and the facilities relatively clean.

The second time we went to Jazz Fest we brought our own wheelchair.  We decided to try to take public transportation from the area of our hotel to the racetrack.  The trolley was wheelchair accessible with a lift, and a well-trained driver (conductor?) who secured the wheelchair in place once we were on board.  It was quite interesting, and only a short walk from the trolley stop to the racetrack.  On this visit there were torrential downpours and a thunderstorm that actually closed the show early.  We spent most of the day in the Blues Tent out of the worst of the rain.  There were places on the infield of the racetrack that became muddy and difficult to navigate with a wheelchair, but generally most places were paved.  I now use a portable travel scooter for situations like shopping malls and outdoor concerts.  However, this wonderful device is totally useless in the rain.  The next time we go I will have to watch the weather reports.

We can't wait to go back.

April 10, 2010