Festivals Supercharge Our City’s Economy

It’s festival time, New Orleans!

Jazz Fest 2016 is fast approaching with absolutely legendary acts like Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon interspersed with popular artists and our beloved local musicians. The Jazz & Heritage Festival is that perfect union of our cultural and musical heritages — but it also boasts a huge economic impact.

From perfectly illustrating the path of a tourism dollar to exposing our rich musical legacy to new audiences, Jazz Fest is an economic boon for our city. In 2015, for example, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival saw record-breaking numbers and the highest attendance since Hurricane Katrina. The second weekend, in particular, saw the fairgrounds at capacity as first-time Jazz Fest performers like music legend Elton John and pop star Ed Sheeran took the stage.

Jazz Fest is one of many festivals that impacts our economy. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Jazz Fest is one of many festivals that impacts our economy. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

About 460,000 fans gathered in total throughout the two weekends of Jazz Fest (in its 46th year). The music was practically nonstop across 12 different stages, and guests could choose from a variety of creative festival foods authentic to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast – crawfish bread, crawfish pasta, rose-mint tea with local honey, cochon de lait po-boys, and frozen mango puree were just a few of the options. Original arts and crafts and photography were also available for purchase throughout the festival.

Though Jazz Fest is one of the city’s largest festivals, there is still plenty more to look forward to as New Orleans launches into festival season throughout the summer. See what it takes to plan a festival with our recent interview with EJ Encalarde, and take a moment to reflect on how these incredible upcoming festivals energize our economy.

Bayou Boogaloo

Not far from Jazz Fest’s location at the fairgrounds is Bayou Boogaloo, a free music festival happening at Bayou St. John in Mid-City. The Boogaloo runs from May 20 through May 22 and includes popular musicians with a strong Louisiana connection. Of course, art and food are of course part of the festival experience – browse jewelry, pottery, crochet, and other applied and fine arts as you chow down on jambalaya, snowballs, and other New Orleans favorites.

New Orleans Food and Wine Experience

New Orleans, food, and wine – enough said. This festival celebrates the city’s strong connection to culinary creativity. Truly a feast for the senses, NOWFE includes wine dinners, a stroll down Royal Street, pastry competitions, and much more. The festival runs from May 26 through 29 at various locations throughout downtown and the French Quarter, but tickets typically sell out, so plan to purchase yours in advance.

Greek Fest

Highlighting the cuisine and culture of Greece and the Greek community within New Orleans, Greek Fest takes place May 27 through May 29 in Bayou St. John. Many Greeks settled in New Orleans during the mid-1800s, providing the city with even more culture, heritage and diversity.


The JW Marriott Hotel is the hub for all things FestiGals, an annual festival running July 28 through July 31 that connects and inspires women. Empowerment events, fundraisers, speakers, panels, and even second lines are all a part of the FestiGals celebration.

Creole Tomato Festival

The same weekend as FestiGals, the French Market in the French Quarter hosts the Creole Tomato Festival. Cooking demonstrations highlighting the Creole tomato plus live entertainment and kids activities are all part of this food-oriented festival happening June 11 and 12.

ESSENCE Festival

The festivals don’t stop in June. July brings ESSENCE Festival, a music celebration that highlights R&B, soul, and hip-hop across the main stages and “Superlounges,” which are smaller stages off to the sides of the main stage, inside the Superdome. Happening June 30 through July 3, the evening concerts include major acts like Mariah Carey and Kendrick Lamar. Be sure to check out their free Empowerment Experience and other daytime activities going on in the Convention Center.