Every year, once we hit Halloween, everything seems to move at a crazy pace. As soon as I take down the candy corn door hanger and unplug the pumpkin inflatable, it’s time to start planning my Thanksgiving menu. As soon as I polish off the last of the leftover Thanksgiving turkey gumbo, we have to go buy a Christmas tree and start wrapping presents (double the presents, in our family’s case, because Ruby has a birthday on Dec. 21). Once Christmas and New Year’s are over and the ornaments and nativity scene all packed away in newspaper and bubble wrap, we get to start eating king cake and going to parades. And once the last truck parade has thrown its last strand of beads, it’s festival season!
Jazz Fest might actually be my favorite holiday – and yes, I count it as a holiday. Every year as a child, I was allowed to skip school on the first Friday of Jazz Fest and spend the day making crafts in the Kids’ Tent, building sand castles on the race track, and drinking strawberry lemonade until I almost made myself sick. So yeah – it obviously qualifies as a holiday in my book. As an adult, I still sometimes play hooky on locals Thursday, although my tastes have changed and now I binge on crawfish bread and beer instead of lemonade.
And while we went one year without Carnival, we have now missed two festival seasons. If I cried a lot at my first Mardi Gras parade this year – and I did, believe me – I am certain I will be an absolute bawling mess when I walk through the gates at Jazz Fest, even before I hear the first band or get my first taste of mango freeze.
Luckily, there are a few festivals for me beforehand that might help me ease myself back in. As a family, we have enjoyed going to the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival for years, and of course, French Quarter Fest is always a good appetizer for Jazz Fest, and the crawfish and goat cheese crepe stand is going to be my first stop.
Over the past two years, we’ve all given up so much, missed out on so many cultural touchstones and annual traditions. And while we found ways to adapt – I did porch dropoffs of the Thanksgiving gumbo, and we did a king cake party over Zoom – there’s just no substitute for a day at Jazz Fest, where you spend the day with 50,000 of your closest friends and return home sunburned, sticky, slightly drunk, and uncomfortably full.
I’m a little bit nervous, but I also honestly can’t wait.
And when Jazz Fest is over, there will be Bayou Boogaloo, Satchmo Summerfest, Tales of the Cocktail, White Linen Night. New Orleans is resuming its natural rhythms, and it feels fantastic. For all of its issues, this is still a glorious place to live!
Of course, after White Linen Night, we’re really in the thick of hurricane season … but I’m just not going to think about that right now.
And then it will be Halloween, and it will all begin again!