You can't be a wimp and live in New Orleans. The lifestyle and pace of this city demand that our residents are in a constant state of ready-to-go shape and training. That applies to carnivals, festivals and parties, of course.
We just finished one of the great celebrations on the planet, huge by any standard of measurement and done at a time when most communities have settled in for long winter’s naps. Yet with Mardi Gras in our collective rear-view mirrors, New Orleans continues a social schedule that would cause mere mortal, ordinary people to buckle at the knees. Our Mayor likes to call us “resilient,“ but I prefer the terms “battle-tested, battle-ready.” Many who live away from here likely call us “nuts,” and then they add, “can’t wait to return.”
Even before the last truck float has returned to its home-place, most of us are reviewing the events ready to unfold in March and beyond. We are setting schedules and prioritizing plans to go to as many happenings as our time and money allow. When New Orleans names a spot on the calendar festival season, you can believe that grand, fun and creative events are at hand.
New Orleans Museum of Art. ongoing
Currently hosting a blockbuster exhibition perfect for New Orleanians’ sensibilities: A Life of Seduction: Venice in the 1700s. On display is fine art, street scenes, puppet theatres, costumes, and views of life from this fabled and sinking city’s (sound familiar?) greatest era. This exhibition includes many works never seen in the United States and NOMA will be the only venue to host this show. www.noma.org.
Amazing Grapes, March 10
This annual fund raiser for the Hermann-Grima and Gallier Historic Houses in the French Quarter is a wine collector’s delight. While there will be plenty of great food and drink, the highlight of the evening is a chance to bid on possessing some grand wines that are long gone from the marketplace. For more information and tickets.
Wednesday at the Square, Beginning March 15
The Young Leadership Council and the Downtown Development District team up to celebrate Hump Day at Lafayette Square. Last year every concert averaged more than 6,000 attendees. Entry is free and there are plenty of booths for food and beverages. Twelve weeks of great performers, like Irma Thomas, Kermit Ruffins, Big Sam, Jon Cleary and Flow Tribe, all playing local stuff to local folks.
St Patrick’s Day. March 17 and St. Joseph’s Day, March 19
It’s not so much those specific days, it’s all about the weekend too. Multiple organizations in every Parish assure that street parties and parades will properly honor the patron saints of Ireland and Italy, with the participants sometimes remembering which is which.
For St. Pat’s celebrations, most bars (and in particular the ones devoted to the Luck o’ the Irish) will feature music, drink specials and contests measuring contestants’ fortitude. Inside tip: if green beer is involved the bar is likely not truly Irish, nor do they take pride in serving good beer.
For St. Joseph’s gatherings, many Italian restaurants and most Italian Catholic churches will present an Altar laden with cookies, pastries, pasta and the like, all for gratis or a small offering or at least a pause for a prayer. This tradition, based on a region’s promise to St. Joseph to honor him on his Feast Day if the curse of bad harvests and a plague were lifted (it was), is upheld in only two places in the world, Sicily and New Orleans.
Super Sunday, March 19
Everywhere else in the world, Super Sunday means one thing: a football game. New Orleans celebrates that too, but then we come back and really stage something super. This time with the fully decked-out Mardi Gras Indians on display and on the move all over town, but in particular Central City, Treme, Gert Town, Bayou St. John and Orleans Avenue. Every Indian Tribe, and there are more than 50, will be out strutting their stuff.
Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival, March 22-26
Honoring one of the greatest playwrights and authors America has ever produced, this annual event goes far beyond what a literary festival normally encompass. Sure, there are featured authors – Rick Bragg, Julia Reed, Roy Blount Jr. among many others – and there are talented actors of international renown – Bryan Batt, Michael Cervaris, Jill St. John, Robert Wagner – and plenty of local VIP’s – Peggy Scott Laborde, Poppy Tooker, Ti Martin, Errol Laborde – but there are so many more important people and crazy events. How many literary and acting festivals do you know that include a shouting contest open to all comers? Stella-shouting evidently comes easy to many. www.tennesseewilliams.net
Top Taco New Orleans Festival, March 23
First year for this endeavor that will take place in the evening on Spanish Plaza. Sexy, yes?
This one started in Denver a few years ago and the organizers said, “Why not do this in New Orleans?” No one had a good reason not to do that very thing, and already the potential and participation among restaurants has exceeded what Denver is doing. www.toptaconola.com
Fete Des Chefs, March 25
One night, eight superb meals, featuring chefs from around the world in private homes in New Orleans, all to benefit the great works of the John Besh Foundation. The night before, March 24, will be Fete Fest, a grand night with Southern chefs showcasing their talents and heritage at Generations Hall. www.johnbeshfoundation.org
Bloody Mary Festival, March 26
New Orleans joins a national line-up of cities hosting a festival honoring our favorite morning-after libation, assuming you don’t count the other ones. This promises to be a lively happening with a wide range of styles, proving that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing it to excess (credit: Becky Allen). You'll find Bloody Mary’s from at least a dozen favorite watering holes, along with food, music and various samples. www.thebloodymaryfest.com
An Edible Evening, March 30
The Edible Schoolyard group of schools host their annual fund raiser at Langston Hughes Academy. This marks the eighth year of Edible Schoolyard events benefitting a program that brings agricultural understanding, hands-on education, knowledge of nutrition and culinary preparation directed at urban children who benefit from these messages. It’s a great evening for an important purpose. www.esynola.org
Hogs for the Cause, March 31 – April 1
A seriously fun fund-raiser for a serious cause. More than 100 teams compete and serve to see who can do the best preparation and make the best use of the whole hog. Benefitting pediatric brain cancer research and treatment, this year “Hogs” is moving to a new venue on the grounds surrounding UNO Lakefront Arena. Lots of pork preparations with all the trimmings including sauces and beans, plenty of beer, good music, and most, if not all, of your dearest friends. www.hogsforthecause.org
Read Happy Hour here on www.myneworleans.com every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed, as well as stored, at www.wgso.com. Also, check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature every month in New Orleans Magazine. Be sure to watch "Appetite for Life," hosted by Tim every Thursday evening at 7 p.m., and Sundays at 5 p.m., on WLAE-TV, Channel 32 in New Orleans. Previously broadcast episodes are available for viewing at http://www.wlae.com/appetite-for-life/