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Friends, Food & Fun: It Must be Jazz Fest!
We seem to have it all, especially this month as the weather gets warmer and spring is finally here. Jazz Fest has even added an extra day this year, which means that we’ll get seven days of music, food, crafts and more at the New Orleans Fairgrounds. The Fest kicks off on Friday, April 25, and runs through May 3; by the end of it, our city will have seen hundreds of bands and musicians, not to mention thousands of visitors. Highlights include the return of the Neville Brothers to their hometown plus Billy Joel, Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, Jimmy Buffett, Stevie Wonder, Al Green and Tim McGraw; then there’s locals like Irma Thomas (the official poster girl), Kermit Ruffins (who’s image will be splashed across the Congo Square poster), and many more. Rain or shine, make sure you arrive with an appetite for food, music and fun.
Information, 522-5555 (through Ticketmaster),  www.nojazzfest.com. Stomp and Romp
The biggest Ponderosa Stomp to date is happening April 29-30 and if you haven’t been before, now’s the time. The Ponderosa Stomp Foundation has a mission to celebrate the unsung heroes of American music; the Foundation’s programs illuminate the cultural footprints left by a variety of musicians who encompass different genres. The two-day affair will be comprised of a daytime conference, in conjunction with the Louisiana State Museum and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, at the Cabildo with two nights of concerts at the House of Blues featuring musicians such as Dave Bartholomew, Lil Buck and the Top Cats with Buckwheat Zydeco, Lazy Lester, Ronnie Spector and dozens more. Music writers and experts, as well as bigwigs in the music industry, will also be present. 
Information, 310-4999, www.ponderosastomp.com.


Celebrating Lionel Hampton’s Legacy
At the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, an exciting new exhibit on loan from the University of Idaho will open April 19, featuring more than 30 photographs and other personal items of legendary jazz musician, educator, social activist and goodwill ambassador Lionel Hampton. This exhibit, titled “Lionel Hampton: A Centennial Celebration” and will give insight into Hampton’s life and legacy and will kick off with a concert featuring singer Stephanie Jordan with Jason Marsalis on the vibraphone. The next day there will be panel discussions, moderated by Tim Francis, with members of Lionel Hampton’s Big Band as well as the launch of “Flying Home Lionel Hampton: Celebrating 100 Years of Good Vibes.” The exhibit will be displayed through July 30.
Information, 539-9600, www.ogdenmuseum.org.


Party (with the) Animals
The Chase Zoo-to-Do will be celebrating Audubon Zoo’s bird collections this year with event proceeds benefitting the restoration of the Tropical Bird House and the creation of new aviary exhibits. The event will be held on May 2, at Audubon Zoo, with a patron party preceding the main gala. (Black tie or white linen suits are recommended.) Featured entertainment consists of Morris Day and The Time, along with The Last Straws, Leah Chase, BRW and VaVaVoom.
There’s also a version of this famed fundraiser for the younger crowd on April 25. The Zoo-To-Do For Kids presented by Humana welcomes kids of all ages; they can enjoy free food, music, crafts, face painting, games and more, with main stage entertainment provided by Radio Disney.
Information, 861-6160, www.auduboninstitute.org.


West Side Story in NOLA
Springtime is a good time for romance and one of the most romantic musicals of all time, West Side Story, will be produced by the New Orleans Opera Association at Tulane University’s McAlister Auditorium April 18-20. New Orleanian Sarah Jane McMahon will take on the lead role of Maria and will be joined in by Louisiana native, Matt Morgan, who will be starring as her star-crossed lover Tony. West Side Story, based off Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, has been performed for over 50 years and this version (the original production was directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins) will remain true to the original musical score with American jazz and blues songs, along with choreography by Karen Azenberg.
Information, 529-3000,  www.neworleansopera.org.
Free Fun in the French Quarter
With over 250 hours of entertainment (that includes over 150 musical performances on 15 stages) the French Quarter Fest will celebrate a quarter decade of quality entertainment this year. With a mission to promote the Vieux Carre by putting on events, performances and activities that display our heritage and culture, the Fest will kick off on April 10, with a special fundraiser aboard the Steamboat Natchez with musical guests Rockin Dopsie & the Zydeco Twisters. The next three days will be on shore at various locations throughout the French Quarter. Highlights include local cuisine, a variety of talented musicians and arts and crafts. The French Quarter Festival is the largest free festival in the South and you won’t want to miss it.
Information, 522-5730, www.fqfi.org.

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