50 Years of JazzFest: A Brief History of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, also known as JazzFest, is much more than a musical experience that happens a few days a year. With 12 moving stages of jazz, gospel, cajun, zydeco, blues, R&B, rock, funk, African, Latin, Caribbean, folk and much more, the festival is firmly established as a singular celebration of historical and contemporary importance. It all began in 1970 when the first festival took place in Beauregard Square, now Louis Armstrong Park. The event was the culmination of years of discussions and efforts by city leaders who wanted to create an event worthy of the city's legacy as the birthplace of jazz.

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, a non-profit organization, was created to oversee the festival. The first festival had 350 attendees and less than half of the total number of musicians and staff needed to present the event. The success of the first festival led to a second one in 1971 with more funding from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation. Over the years, JazzFest has received many honors, including being named Festival of the Year four times by Pollstar magazine.

The festival has also had an incredible impact on the city. Elaine Lorillard, a socialite and jazz fan, hired George Wein to create a summer festival in Newport, Rhode Island. Wein would eventually combine elements of the international jazzfestival with its own innovations, momentum and business acumen to create the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Wein's prediction that New Orleans would become the first jazz-festival city had clearly come true.

Miner helped start and curate the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation Archive which owns recordings of interviews with musicians made at the Allison Miner Music Heritage Stage at the festival each year among other assets. Now that you know a little more about what JazzFest is and its incredible impact on the city, you're probably wondering how to book and navigate a once-in-a-lifetime Jazz-Fest experience. Fifty years after its founding with almost half a million annual attendees, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell is still fabulously fun. So if you're looking for an unforgettable experience full of music and culture then make sure to check out this year's JazzFest!.