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Whether it was Grammy-winning artist Jon Batiste walking through the audience playing “When the Saints Go Marching In” or Oscar-nominated trumpeter Terence Blanchard performing to a standing-room only crowd at the Jazz Tent, the 2023 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival did not disappoint.

Thousands descended on the city to enjoy New Orleans food, culture, heritage and fun. For tourists, it was just a taste of what New Orleans has to offer. But they soon realized that the city was more than food and music. It’s the locals and culture bearers that make New Orleans a special place.

This year was the second time at Jazz Fest for Jane Moretta and her daughter Christina Moretta who were visiting the city from San Francisco. Christina raved about the “energy” at Jazz Fest and her mother enjoyed the 360 photo booth and the Gospel tent.

Christina Moretta, left, and her mother Jane Moretta have decided to make Jazz Fest an annual family tradition. Credit: Nigell Moses/Verite

They’ve decided to make it an annual tradition, Jane said.

“It feels spiritually hydrating and I feel rejuvenated being here,” Jane said.

Robin Bennefield traveled to New Orleans from Bowie, Maryland. It was her first year returning to Jazz Fest since before the pandemic. She said the festival brought the same positive energy as in years past. 

“It brings so many people together from so many backgrounds to share their love of live music, and it’s a true showcase of New Orleans culture and hospitality,” Bennefield said. “I love it so much. Plus I got to dance to Zydeco and see two of my favorite performers, Lizzo and Jill Scott. They were phenomenal!”

Inside the festival, food vendor Chef Lawrence Armour made crab meat po-boys and creole stuffed crab for a line of hungry music lovers. His family’s catering business, Stufhapn, has been serving food at Jazz Fest for 10 years.

“We are a fan favorite,” Armour said. “We have been out here forever, my dad started it and me and my brother took over.”

For culture bearers like Big Chief Dowee Robair of the 9th Ward Black Hatchet Mardi Gras Indians, Jazz Fest is a reminder of what New Orleans culture represents.

People from all over come here “to see our culture, to see what we have to represent and bring to the entire world,” Robair said.

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New Orleans native Nigell Moses graduated summa cum laude from Xavier University of Louisiana with a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication. She is a published contributing writer, with stories in The...