It’s a local institution. Come rain, come shine, there are few better places to be on the first Saturday of the month than the corner of Freret and Napoleon. The Freret Market, which celebrates its fifth birthday this year, is one of the city’s most visible post-Katrina success stories for bringing together local residents, merchants, and artists (and everyone else in between). Neighborhood members know they love it, but curious to take the pulse of their passion, I took a recent walk around the market equipped with a simple question.
If you could sum up the Freret Market in a single sentence, what would that be?
Needless to say, I got a range of responses, most of which started with a laugh and “Wow, that’s a tough question!” Assuring them that the sentence didn’t have to be long, it was a lot of fun sitting back and watching people think about what they wanted to say. But whether they were selling their wares, catching the music, picking up a snack, or just walking around having a good time, everyone ultimately had an opinion. So here, dear readers, are a few of the responses — I hope you enjoy:
- Music and people watching: it’s a funky good time. (James Garrison, at Jazzy Wings)
- It’s 4 blocks from my house! (Kelly Johanson)
- A lot of great different food, all in one place. (Shannon Watt)
- I love that we’re supporting small, local ventures. (Gloria Thomas)
- It’s a great opportunity for the city and for its residents to support local businesses. (Leonard Williams, at mark-it-kwik)
- Local bliss! (Rhonda Hollen)
- It’s like a lot of the other markets, but tighter — a lot more food, and it’s intermingled with the art. (David Lapene, a first-timer to the market)
- I’d come back again. (Jim Yenowine)
- It represents the spirit of New Orleans: very eclectic and artistic and musical, all the things that make New Orleans great. (Natalie Butts, at Butts Sauce)
- Dedication! (Miss Linda, the Ya-ka-mein lady)
- It’s pretty cool — it smells really, really good. (Barrett and Hudson Williams, brothers)
- A really eclectic mix of New Orleans artists, all together. (Jen Jutras)
- Doggie! (Eli Jutras, 19 months old)
So, there you have it. The voice of the people, uncut, unedited, uncensored. If you’ve been to the market, then you already know, but if you haven’t, then now you have no excuse. Next month is the perfect time to come; the annual Freret Street Festival will be taking place on April 7 from 12-6pm, taking over the length of the street between Napoleon and Jefferson, a chance to see the corridor in its finest. Come hungry, stay late, and bring a friend or three. I promise you’ll have more than a single sentence to say.
The neighborhood has a few special visitors this week: the novelist Jonathan Franzen will be giving a reading at Tulane on Monday night, and Tuesday, Tulane architecture professor John Klingman celebrates his new volume on New Orleans architecture at Octavia Books. Next Saturday, the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance holds a housing fair at Mahalia Jackson High School — more information is available on the “Own the Crescent” webpage. And finally, all week long across town at UNO, a week-long festival of Brazilian culture and music, Festival Brasileiro, gets underway after a kickoff party last night. More information is at their Facebook page. Divirta-se!
Benjamin Morris is the author of Coronary, a poetry collection, and The Bella, a novella. Around town, he can be found catching music on Frenchmen, crawling the galleries on St Claude, playing soccer in City Park, or tending bar at the Sovereign Pub Uptown. His column appears on Sundays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.