Saturday, November 14, 2009

The 2009 Highland Jazz and Blues Festival

The 2009 Highland Jazz and Blues Festival is in the books! Liz Swain reports that the crowd count this year was 10,000 and with the perfect weather we had today it is not a surprise.

Steve and I got there early, about half an hour before kickoff, and we secured a nice sunny spot on a hill in front of the main pavilion. The first band on that stage was Robin and the Bluebirds. Most locals are familiar with The Bluebirds; they're longtime favorites around here, and Robin, Jerry Beach's daughter, is a nice addition. As they played, the park started to fill in with folks and by the end of the day it was packed.

I think there were almost as many dogs as there were people. I took some pictures of dogs as you will see here. Steve and I are both dog lovers and trust me, we saw everything from tiny teacup chihuahuas to Mastiffs and Great Danes, and everything in between. Here is The Shreveport Times Photo Gallery.

There were dogs, little kids, old people, young people, middle aged people, aging hippies, people in wheelchairs, on walkers, and Junior Leaguers. There was also a parrot. It was a huge block party.

One of the things I love about this event is people watching. I took a picture of this couple because I thought they looked right out of the 60s. They were cute and having a grand time!

Steve and I spent most of the day parked in our spot, Steve in a lawn chair and me on my LSU blanket, but from time to time we'd get up and walk to the other end of the park to the gazebo stage where there was always another band playing. A. J. Haynes and the Monkey Business was great - this girl had a voice to die for! Professor Porkchop was also at the gazebo stage earlier in the day and I'm a fan of Chris McCaa from way back. Louisiana funk.

Another wonderful thing about this event is that you always run into somebody you know but haven't seen for years. And there were, as usual, food vendors and artists again this year and it seems that each year it grows. I hit the beer booth a few times and we sampled some bacon cheese fries. I also hit the Aidan's Place booth - greatest homemade granola EVAH and I don't even like granola. This is seriously good stuff.

The main event of the day was The Rebirth Brass Band from New Orleans. I think that's what a lot of folks came out to see, but in truth, the entire lineup was so great, who could tell. I can tell you that Rebirth electrified the place! By that time, the gazebo stage wrapped up and so everyone at that end of the park came down to the pavilion end. And most of them were in front of the stage dancing!

The Highland Jazz and Blues Festival is, I think, representative of Shreveport in that Shreveport has a huge musical heritage. Shreveport has produced an incredible list of musical talent through the years, from the Louisiana Hayride and one of Elvis Presley's first appearances to Jimmy Burton, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Hank Williams, Jr., Van Cliburn, Huddie Ledbetter, Kix Brooks, just to name a few. Not to mention lots of locally famous folks like Buddy Flett, Hassell Teekell, Michael Grady, Dennis Zimmerman, Mikki Honeycutt, among others.

The Highland Jazz and Blues Festival needs help to keep going, though. Budget cuts have put the future of the festival in jeopardy. They have relied on grants from SRAC and NIP, in the past, to help fund the event, but this year those grants weren't there. So the organizers had to dip into savings to fund the event and now the savings is gone. Throughout the festivities today, Liz Swain called for donations and the crowd responded, but if the event is going to happen again next year, we all need to dig into our pockets and contribute.

As Mayor Glover said today, after writing his own $500 personal check, it's not just for the Highland area, it's for Shreveport.

So all you locals that are reading, dig in and send them some cash! Even if you aren't local and just want to support the arts, here is the link. And I'm pledging that for the next thirty days, anything that lands in my tip jar will go directly to the Highland Jazz and Blues Festival.

All in all it was a grand time and I hate you missed it! Here's a video I shot of Rebirth, so you can see what you missed:

Update: Here is the link to The Shreveport Times write up.
Here is the link to my Flickr photos.

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