The 50th Anniversary of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is an annual celebration of local music and culture held at the Fair Grounds Racecourse in New Orleans, Louisiana. For fifty years, this event has been a cornerstone of the city's culture, drawing in hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The festival was first conceived by city leaders who wanted to create an event that would honor the city's rich musical heritage and have popular appeal. In 1970, the first New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival was held in Congo Square with four stages.

The event was headlined by Mahalia Jackson, the great gospel singer born in New Orleans, and also featured performances by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the New Orleans Modern Jazz Allstars with Ellis Marsalis. An announcement for the festival was published in The Times-Picayune, and it was clear that this event would be something special. The festival was a success from the start, and it has grown exponentially since then. Now, it draws nearly half a million attendees to the festival site each year.

Listeners can enjoy all genres of music from jazz and gospel to R&B and rock from the multiple stages of the fairgrounds. The festival also features art, food, and other activities that celebrate Louisiana culture. The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, a non-profit organization, was established to oversee the festival. All proceeds from the event go to this entity.

The foundation also produces limited-edition silk-screen posters for each year's festival. The first poster was produced in 1975, and now they are highly sought after collector's items. The New York Times has pointed out that the Jazzfest has “become inseparable from the culture it presents”. This is certainly true; 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. It is firmly established as a singular celebration of historical and contemporary importance.