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A Veritable Feast of Festivals!
(Spring 2001)

 So there I was, on the road again.  Dear GOD, how I do love to be on the road.  Sometimes it’s a Willie Nelson trip, and sometimes more like Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page”. But always Magic, if only I have the presence
of mind to tune in and not let it pass me by.

 This was not a big-deal trip. New Orleans to Jackson, MS. Quick trip, personal errands to attend to, made it hundreds of times.  But you know
what, it WAS a big deal, because it was total pleasure – all the way up,
all the way back.

 So, what does this have to do with festivals, you may well be wondering.
It went like this. I left on Friday morning, turned onto I-55 North, as fate would have it, just in time to hear the opening of the 2001 Jazzfest
broadcast live by WWOZ, best darned radio station in the whole darned Universe, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station, 90.7 on your FM
dial… Phenomenal. Both the music and the commentary. Incredible.
WWOZ has put together a tape covering the origin and history of the
Jazzfest, which I hope will be made available to the public. For a fee,
of course. OZ is a listener-supported station, a labor of love,  manned
by volunteers. Many of the DJ’s are local musicians, and all are totally knowledgeable about the genre featured on their shows. Ya just gotta
love it… (As I write, I’m listening to the infamous Ko Ko Taylor,
belting them out at the Jazzfest as only she can!)

 As I was saying, about the origin and history of the Jazzfest. The gentle-
man being interviewed on Friday morning recalled one of the most magical, spontaneous musical moments of his life. Early on the Jazzfest was much smaller, of course, and was held in Congo Square rather than its current location at the Fairgrounds. This particular year, among the featured
artists (are you ready for this?): Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Mahalia Jackson. Yep. Just a little New Orleans jazz festival. The day was ending,
and a New Orleans brass marching band came marching in. Then someone handed Duke Ellington an umbrella so that he could do his thing with the brass band, New Orleans style. At that point, the band broke into “Just a Closer Walk with Thee”. Which meant, of course, that Mahalia Jackson
(who hails from New Orleans, by the way) broke into song. Awesome.
A moment etched indelibly on the brain of everyone present. Just what
wouldn’t I give…

 One thing about WWOZ, it doesn’t have a very strong signal. Sometimes
I even have trouble picking it up at home, depending on the weather...
Right around
Hammond, LA there is usually enough interference to
prompt me to move on to another famous New Orleans station: "The
Rock of New Orleans.Always was, always will be. WRNO, 99.5 FM.
And were they rocking, or what??Yes indeed. Have mercy!
ZZ Top, the Stones, you name it. And they were advertising not only
the Jazzfest, but also Memphis in May, the Beale Street Music Festival. Memphis. Rollin’ on the River too, just 400 miles or so further upstream.  Next weekend, May 4, 5 and 6, Memphis will honor its festival revelers
with some pretty darned impressive music. Not only will the Dave Mat-
thews Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic
and Blues Traveler be present, but (hang onto your hats, y’all) but none
other than Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. Okay? What else can I say?

What I really do NOT comprehend is the scheduling this year. Normally, there is not a conflict between the Jazzfest in New Orleans and the Beale Street Music Festival. A lot of people are sorely disappointed this year. No
problem, you may be thinking. So just go to the first weekend of the
Jazzfest and Beale Street the next weekend. But what if you have your
heart set on hearing the Jazzfest’s headliner this year, Paul Simon? Who
is scheduled for the second weekend. C'est la vie...

 So you’re thinking, well sure, New Orleans, Memphis. Certainly they have
the pull, the clout, the wherewithal to draw the likes of Willie and Bob.
What if I told you that Willie Nelson would be headlining the Jubilee Jam
in Jackson, MS on May 18th? Jackson, MS?!?! Yep. Sho nuff, y’all.

Arts and
Music Festival.

Jubilee Jam is cool, anyway. It’s an annual event during which Capitol
Street - downtown Jackson’s main drag -  is closed off all weekend long
for the party, and I DO mean party. Great music, even when played by
groups with names as yet unfamiliar to you, food, food, and more food,
lotsa suds, arts, crafts. Fun. Mega. Southerners KNOW how to party, y’all. Trust me…

 So, I’m still driving along I-55 North, right, and am now losing WRNO’s powerful signal, right around McComb. Pike County, MS. And I’m not
quite far enough north yet to pick up my second favorite radio station in
the whole darned Universe, “Z106,  playing The Best Classic Rock”.
And believe me, they do. I can always count on some Stones, probably
Led Zep, Joe Cocker, Jimmy Hendrix, maybe even Janis herself. I dig
it! After 15 minutes of so of a really decent country station, I’m able to
pick up Z106. And find that they are touting Z Fest 2001, featuring
Lynyrd Skynyrd and Drivin’ and Cryin’.  Lynyrd Skynyrd fans must be ecstatic, huh? Twice is one weekend, only 200 miles apart. Like, wow!

Are you wondering by now just when I’m going to get to the FOOD?
This is, after all, La Belle CUISINE, no? Mais oui. Festivals and food
are synonymous, are they not? Certainly in my experience. Well, how
about right now? First of all, back to Memphis. Please allow me to
bring to your attention to:

The Superbowl of Swine!
Where the big pigs come to play!

Or you could just call it the World Championship Barbecue Cooking
Contest, scheduled for May 17, 18 and 19, 2001. It’s advertised as the
Super Bowl, Mardi Gras and one bodacious party all rolled into one.
Well, prejudiced toward all things New Orleanian as I am, I don’t know
about comparing it to Mardi Gras. Sheesh!  But I’ll have to say Amen to
the bodacious party. That it is. If you’re into barbecue at all, this one’s
for you. And if you’re a barbecue fanatic, head for Memphis. Roll up
your sleeves, throw caution to the winds, and prepare to pig out.
For real. OINK!!!!!

Memphis-Style Ribs
Barbecued Ribs with Back Bay Sauce

Barbecued Texas Beef Brisket
Whoopi Goldberg's Big Bad Ass Beef Ribs
Bodacious Porterhouse Steaks with Sexy Barbecue Sauce

On my way out of Jackson today, I decided to swing by Smith Park and check out the 2001 International Crawfish Festival.  AIIIYEEE!!! Another party, y’all, I gare-own-tee! Spicy mudbugs and suds. Ohmigod! Pinch the tail, suck the head — that's about the only way to eat them. I used to have
a T-shirt that shouted in large, fire-engine-red letters, “Do you suck heads?”  Some people were offended…

I had a chat with Bill Bissell, the festival’s promoter, who let me in on
the secret behind the success of the event. “Crawfish is always served
with music and libation.” Amen, brother! Hot crawfish, cold beer, sweet
snow cones (16 flavors!), live music. Plus Polish Sausage with Onions,
Philadelphia Steak on a Stick and all manner of other yummy eats.
How much better does it get in Jackson, MS??? Bill – who by the way,
is a very friendly, accommodating guy – added, “You can wipe your
mouth on your sleeve and wash the crawfish down with a cold beer.
That’s kind of what I do…” Let’s hear another amen for Brother Bill!

Emeril's Crawfish Boil
Creole Crawfish
Paul Prudhomme's Crawfish Enchiladas con Queso

One of the featured bands today was a “fun band” called Key West.
They play (yeah, you guessed it) Jimmy-Buffett-type music. Can y’all
even BELIEVE that I actually got back into my car and drove to New
Orleans before the last head had been sucked, the kegs were dry, and
the clean-up crews arrived? Hard to leave. But then again, it’s never
really difficult for me to head south on I-55. Mystical, magical
New Orleans, land of dreamy dreams, city of my heart… 

As I crossed the Louisiana state line, my heart skipped a beat, just as it
always does. Bienvenue in Louisiane. Love it. We took a short break at
the Louisiana Welcome Center, my SophieDog and I, where it was my
great pleasure to chat a bit with two charming British lads who were
headed for the Jazzfest.  Looking for directions. And tips. I was only
too happy to oblige them. Their eagerness was clearly visible, just as
their excitement was contagious. As well it should have been. Apparently
your typical British aloof nonchalance doesn’t stand a ghost of a chance
under the spell of the New Orleans Jazzfest!

Headed home. If you’re going to make good time between Jackson and
New Orleans, it had best be between Hazlehurst and Hammond. Otherwise there’s too much traffic. Approaching Hammond, LA, where I-55 intersects
I-12, I begin to get that almost-home feeling. Won’t be long now. Shortly
after you pass the Ponchatoula exit, you’ll be on a bridge. Not a bridge over
a large body of water, but a bridge over swampland, bayous.
A looooong bridge, going all the way to the end of I-55, some 30 miles or so. When
you get to Manchac, you’re really in bayou country. Home. At last. St.
John the Baptist Parish. This is where my heartbeat really kicks up its
pace. The vast expanse of water on your right will be Lake Maurepas.
To your left, but not quite visible, is Lake Pontchartrain. A great lake,
with the renowned 26-mile Causeway Bridge connecting Metairie, LA
to the “north shore”. Mandeville, Covington, Abita Springs. But that’s
another story…

Stay tuned. Next weekend Funky Liza will absorb every possible detail
of the New Orleans Jazzfest and give you the full report, including lots
and LOTS of food. Okay?

 That’s it for today…..enjoy! And don't forget...live with Passion!
~ Michele

"It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love,
are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think
of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I
am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the
love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and
fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one."

~ M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating icon icon



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