As the New Orleans metro area rises ever more steadily in popularity in terms of viability and visibility (hello yet another Super Bowl and mostly uneventful Mardi Gras season) as well as the 2012 numbers-driven title of fastest growing American city (somehow when I mention this in passing conversation nowadays a lot of people missed this), integral components to our cultural seasons just might need to be kept in check. In other words, are we nearing a tipping point of over abundant festivals this or any other spring? Or as I’ve come to call it, will we soon experience Fest Fest? And should we? And if we do, are we in danger of becoming a mockery of ourselves? Maybe yes, maybe no.
We certainly run the further risk of more widely viewed outsider publications slapping less than flattering labels on us a la Travel and Leisure’s assessment of the population being the strangest. No thanks. Not all press is good press, mind you. Case in point. New Orleans flies its own flag it’s true, but then so does every other ‘burg no matter how similar it may be to many other destinations. Surely the Ravens’ Baltimore homecoming post-win was very different than our Lombardi Gras. And so what. Maybe they had a parade, maybe they didn’t. It doesn’t make us or them amazing, awful, lame or whatever adjective may objectively apply.
So here we sit about to shake off the cool at the edge of spring and down the road many a distraction lay ahead. The tried and true JazzFest, French Quarter Fest two weeks before, and Wednesdays on the Square monster 12 week run starting March 6th are all abuzz with fanfare and big plans. Spring does have a way of making the indigenous excited, anywhere you go. And then there are the, shall we say, second tier fests including the Memorial Day Weekend Greek Fest, the yet to be determined Tomato Fest, the upcoming Los Islenos, and who can forget the Ponchatoula Strawberry Fest ”competing” datewise anyway with FQ Fest or mid May Bayou Boogaloo?
But wait! There’s more!! Beer Fest returns this year along with the landmark Tennessee Williams Fest, Soul Fest, and Oyster Fest!! Yes, these all really exist. For a mostly comprehensive look into this season and beyond spring, NewOrleansOnline.com does a decent job, however ( * cough cough * ) Freret Fest is oddly absent from their queue. But you see what I mean? Oysters, tomatoes, strawberries, street names and on. It’s a little exhaustive. We could always add in Faulkner, Twain, okra, and blueberries too, but we haven’t yet – or that I know of. Who knows what the future holds? Again, the danger I feel becomes basically an excuse to assemble a stage, sell beer and shill logo merch beside artists’ tents long on fleur de lis and kooky necktie wearing cartoon alligators.
Maybe all of this is from where we’ll never return: a festival of festivals. And it’s OK I suppose, as long as it remains appropriate to the region. In that vein, I remain unconvinced of events like say Chewbacchus, despite growing popularity or their square-peg, round-hole approach to Carnival, bearing any – and I mean any – relevance to the Crescent City; of course I realize I’m in the minority here, but whatever. Does that make me old school, old guard, or just unplugged? Meh, who cares? Appropriate just may be irrelevant as the masses’ responsiveness will dictate the acceptability of Chewbacchus or any other gathering, celebratory culture, fruit, vegetable or indispensable regional culinary delight.
DobergeFest, anyone? Sign me up!
Jean-Paul Villere is the owner of Villere Realty and Du Mois Gallery on Freret Street and a married father of four girls. In addition to his Wednesday column at UptownMessenger.com, he also shares his family’s adventures sometimes via pedicab or bicycle on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.