50 Years of Jazz Fest: A Look Back at the Milestones and Momentous Events

For over five decades, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival has been a source of off-stage drama and magic on stage. As the 50th anniversary of the festival approaches, it's time to take a look back at some of the milestones and momentous events that have shaped and defined the festival throughout its first half century. The festival began in 1970, when George Wein, a jazz promoter, combined elements of the International Jazz Festival with his own innovations, drive and business acumen to create a celebration of local culture. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation was established to produce the event, and all proceeds from the festival go to this entity.

The first festival was held in Congo Square in 1971, but it quickly outgrew this venue. The following year, it moved inside the Fair Grounds racecourse, which is the third oldest racetrack in the United States (open since 1872). In 2004, Festival Productions began a partnership with entertainment company AEG Live, which allowed for more headliners at the festival. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation also secured more funding, so a second festival could be held in 1971. This was named the Louisiana Heritage Festival.

Jazz Fest tickets are available for purchase on the Jazz Fest website a few months before the event, or at the gates any day of the festival. People of all levels are welcome to come out and enjoy the festival's food, music and culture. Inconveniences such as poor parking and snake-like bathroom queues, heat, humidity, torrential rains and traffic jams in dusty or muddy terrain make the Jazz Fest experience both exhausting and stimulating. This April, thousands of locals and visitors will gather at the Fair Grounds racecourse for the 50th Annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

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