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Be of Good Cheer

It’s the most wonderful time of the year –– Jazz Fest! Sure, Christmas is great and loaded with traditions and sensory memories: the smells of pine trees and sugar cookies, the sounds of carols and church bells, the sights of Santa Claus and Mr. Bingle. But Jazz Fest, to me, is even richer: the smells of mud and crawfish bread and suntan oil and sweat mixed with the occasional waft of suspiciously sweet smoke, the sounds of music and laughter, the sights of crazy multicolored flags and everyone from frat boys to 70-something hippies like my dad dancing and having fun.

Also like Christmas, Jazz Fest is a holiday that has evolved for me as I’ve gotten older. I remember my earliest Jazz Fests, when the highlights were the Kids’ Tent, playing in the sand on the racetrack and eating strawberry smoothies. I remember Jazz Fest in high school, when I looked forward to watching Cowboy Mouth, trying to sneak a beer or two and eating Crawfish Monica. And now, as a parent, Jazz Fest has become all about dancing crazy to the Imagination Movers, making sure my daughter is wearing enough sunscreen … and eating Crawfish Monica.

Jazz Fest and Carnival season are two times of year when it’s very clear that New Orleans is a different type of city than Cedar Vale, Kan., or Grafton, Iowa, or even Austin, Texas. Compared to the frenzied energy of Carnival, though, Jazz Fest is much more laid back, a time to relax and soak up the sun and get more than your fill of fattening food and fabulous music.

It’s also a time when the humid air sizzles with creativity; famous musicians and local favorites perform their hearts out, and artists and craftspeople display their work and wares at various booths around the fest.

We’re hoping to capture some of that creative energy in these pages with the homes of local artists Keith Perelli and James Michalopoulos –– the artist behind this year’s Jazz Fest poster –– and local musician David Connick of the Bucktown All-Stars.

Just as Jazz Fest is a time of year when it’s OK to be a little different, a little quirky, a little funky, the homes in this issue are a little atypical for this magazine. They’re a bit off-kilter; they have lots more art and/or bass guitars than you’d find in a traditional St. Charles Avenue mansion. From Michalopoulos’ seven-level home in Faubourg Marigny to Perelli’s shotgun in Bywater to Connick’s ranch-style residence in Metairie, each home is tailored to celebrate and foster creativity.

Jazz Fest also brings something more tangible than creativity to the city –– visitors. It’s a rare home that doesn’t have company at least one of the weekends of the fest, and when you have guests, you have to show them our classic New Orleans hospitality! Our TrendWatch section this month features some fun and classy ideas for spring entertaining, with a little help from the bugs at the Audubon Insectarium. If you’re looking for food ideas, we have a crowd-pleasing recipe for fried Camembert with currant coulis in Gatherings, and Last Indulgence honors the ultimate springtime brunch item, eggs Sardou.

April in New Orleans might already be hot and sticky, and there’s definitely no “caroling out in the snow,” but when there’s art and music and out-of-town guests and Crawfish Monica, there really can be no doubt that there is no more wonderful time of year than right now.

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