What will festival season 2021 look like in New Orleans?

What will festival season 2021 look like in New Orleans?
New Orleans plans on having some festivals in fall despite the pandemic. (Source: WVUE)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Excitement builds over the promise of fall festivals, but experts say it all rides on what we do to make sure they happen.

Now Jazz Fest joins the ranks of fall festivals this year, pushed back from the Spring to mid-October with hopes that enough people will be vaccinated.

That means October is shaping up to be a busy month. French Quarter Fest is planned to run Sept. 30 through Oct. 3. Jazz Fest follows over the next two weekends. Then there is a scaled down Buku October 22 through 23, finished off with a normal Voodoo Fest over Halloween weekend.

Will it actually happen?

“For something like a Jazz Fest and a French Quarter Fest, the city would be packed, the hotels would be sold out,” Kelly Schulz with New Orleans and Company said.

Nearly 20 million tourists visited the city throughout 2019 and spent $10 billion according to New Orleans and Company. They say 2021 is going to be a year of gradual recovery.

“That’s what we’re seeing with these events shifting to the fall, so we’re excited to have them and we’ll certainly do everything we can to get visitors here for that, but safety will always be the most important thing,” Schulz said.

Schulz says New Orleans and Company is working with elected officials to see if hospitality workers will be added to a priority group to get the vaccine sooner, also adding some convention groups have also been eying the fall for a return to the Big Easy.

Schulz says she’s excited to have things to promote and looks forward to getting thousands of hospitality workers and musicians who make this city tick back to work, while pointing out that it depends on how we all manage the pandemic.

“That is going to be driven entirely by where we are on the ground with the case numbers with the infection rate with the vaccine rates,” spokesman Beau Tidwell said.

Health educator Dr, Eric Griggs says it’s great to have things actually scheduled to look forward to, but we may have to dial it back a bit.

“I got uber excited,” Griggs said. “French Quarter Fest? Jazz Fest? Fall? Yes! Finally something and I was thinking about football and then I had to really check myself like, okay this is great, but let’s manage our expectations and realize we are still in a pandemic.”

We’re still surging in Louisiana and across the country. Griggs only expects the numbers to go up.

“Potentially another surge in March and or April with the new prevalence of a variant that’s more infectious and possibly at least one more behind that, the South African one that’s popped up in Brazil,” Griggs said. “You just want to manage their expectations.”

With variants that are more contagious, Griggs says we can’t continue to fight science. Wear your mask, wash your hands, don’t congregate now if you want to get jazzy with your friends then, and of course get vaccinated when you have the chance.

“It depends on science, of course, but it depends on you, it depends on your behavior,” Griggs said. “There’s still a lot of people that don’t believe it and again the virus is evolving to infect more people, it’s getting younger and younger.”

Dr. Joseph Kanter with the state health department told me the state is planning to have enough vaccine delivery capacity in time for the fall he says the wild card is how much vaccine will be available for Louisiana and we just don’t know that yet.

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