October is the most delightful month to enjoy the French Quarter, with its usually perfect weather, relatively low humidity, and daily celebrations.
It is considered “wedding month” and many restaurant courtyards and lobbies spill bridal parties out into the streets following a traditional brass band. Everyone is smiling and laughing as bystanders wave to the parade attendees, throwing not beads but wishes to the happy couple. There is nothing like a French Quarter parade to remind us all that it is these milestone events that make us happy to be on “this side of the sod”—and especially happy to be in New Orleans!
The brass band musicians are plentiful and it is not uncommon to see a trumpeter leading the way down Bourbon at twilight and then seeing him at a club a few hours later, stashing his band hat and uniform behind the stage, ready for his evening gig.
Jackson Square is often the scene of daily wedding ceremonies where proud parents circle the walkways up to the officiating minister. With the iconic St. Louis Cathedral in the background, these photos will be treasured forever. The bridal party is obscured behind the towering statue in the middle of the Square and emerges to greet the seated and standing guests as the bride begins the processional march.
After the ceremony, the entire group may have planned for a brass band parade or just adjourn to one of the many restaurants surrounding the Square to complete the celebration.
A few blocks west of the Square is a quiet respite in the heart of the Quarter, Musical Legends Park—a small area (44’ x 127’) that once was occupied by an electrical power substation. It was given to the city in the early 1970s and turned into an area named Edison Place. With flowers and some seating, it quickly became a hang-out for the more nefarious characters of the area and was closed and padlocked for some time. It is an oasis between several establishments—a nightclub and a restaurant—directly across from the elegant Royal Sonesta Hotel and the Jazz Playhouse. In 1999 a non-profit group decided to turn this valuable piece of Bourbon Street frontage into a park honoring the musical legends of this famous city.
Life-size bronze statues were commissioned and a local artist has created a selfie paradise where you can have your photo taken with any one of the current eight pedestaled icons: Al Hirt, Pete Fountain, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Fats Domino, Louis Prima, Ronnie Cole, or Chris Owens. The latter two are usually most familiar to local worshipers and Chris Owens’ nightclub is just a few blocks down the street.
The bubbling Pete’s Wishing Well Fountain welcomes coins for donations to the McDonogh School near the site of the Jazz & Heritage Festival grounds a few miles northwest. It is the school Pete attended and is only a few blocks from where the Fountain family lived to nurture one of New Orleans’ favorite sons.
In 2003, we attended the French Quarter festival when the Pete Fountain statue was unveiled and dedicated. It was a magical day for me and we followed the crowd back to Jackson Square with Pete leading yet another parade.
In 2004 the Park sought a vendor for the area, and Café Beignet opened in the back to serve beignets, coffee and a light menu. Later, a bar serving all kinds of refreshments opened while the entertainment started as early as 10:00 am to around midnight—every day. A few years ago a larger illuminated and covered stage was added for the musicians so performances continue in spite of rain. There is no charge to grab a seat, have a libation, and enjoy the music—but don’t forget to tip the band and throw something into Pete’s Fountain with a wish to return soon.
Shelly Gallichio is a Real Estate Associate Broker in Tucson, Arizona, and despite growing up in Chicago, fell in love with the clarinet and the New Orleans sound at the age of 3.
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