Tales of Saving the Party!
Sometimes a festival, no matter how much fun they are to attend, is just a lot of drudge work for organizers. I am sorry to break your fairy tale impressions of how these massive and involved events unfold, but it’s true: the fun part is in attending, not necessarily the planning or the staging.
All the more reason to be a gracious and appreciative attendee when you are at the festival. Usually, the people who stage a festival are volunteers. They donate massive commitments of time with little or no compensation towards a successful public-benefit venture. The profit motive very seldom enters into the decision to be involved.
Two events recently staged in New Orleans, and closely associated with our town, came through a rocky time in their history and both, I am happy to report, proved their values to their respective industries, our community and to the people who purchase tickets and support their goals.
In recent years, the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience went into a declining-value event status. Individual events cost too much money for what the attendee received by way of education and experience. Yes, all monies gained from admissions and consumer participation went to worthy non-profit, community service groups. But those ticket buyers had reasonable expectations that NOWFE was also going to benefit them in some personal way.
After all, festivals are supposed to be fun on a variety of social and professional levels. When ticket buyers determine the events are not worth the price, then the festival ceases to exist. In New Orleans, a festival ceasing operations is never good news.
The NOWFE board took the criticisms to heart and rededicated themselves and their industries to staging an event in which everyone can enjoy and take pride. Those goals were met with the 2019 event. A change of season, change of venues, new approaches and upgrade of past favorite experiences proved that an old dog can learn new tricks.
NOWFE, to say the least, turned the slow decline around and re-energized the 26-year old concept. Color New Orleans officially back on-board.
Tales of the Cocktail, New Orleans’ smashing success staged in the warm, sometimes cruel, heart of our summer, never truly went into a decline as a festival. But 2017 saw some unfortunate circumstances that resulted in a change of ownership.
The show could have packed up its jiggers and shakers and headed for other locales that are chomping at the bit to host the party. Thanks to a few New Orleanians, notably Gary Solomon and Neal Bodenheimer, the change of venue bridge never had to be crossed.
But in 2018 a few trial programs dented the concept of Tales and dampened the enthusiasm of attendees who head to a hot, humid New Orleans in this not-so-nice season.
Again, the architects of the festival met challenges head-on, no sugar-coating, and changed what had been decided as recently as the previous year. As it happened, 2019 Tales was one of the most successful and happiest Tales staged in a long time.
Like NOWFE, a change of venue was refreshing, even if not totally necessary, and a renewed emphasis on education as well as enjoyment set a jolly tone for all in attendance.
Both festivals are now well-positioned to continue to evolve, and to contribute to the reputation of New Orleans as a darn good place to party as well as be educated in culinary and beverage topics.
Let’s all drink to that!
Read Happy Hour here on myneworleans.com on Wednesdays, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed, as well as stored (podcast), at www.wgso.com. Also, check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature about cocktails every month in New Orleans Magazine.