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The New York Times: New Orleans' Jazz Fest to Go On

Published: January 31, 2006
Filed at 5:42 p.m. ET
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Katrina couldn't stop the music.
The 2006 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival will go on as usual in post-Katrina New Orleans this spring, buoyed by a deal with a first-ever presenting sponsor, the Shell oil company, producer Quint Davis said Tuesday.
''It was touch and go for most of the time,'' Davis said. ''If Shell and our other sponsors had not come through it would not have been possible. It would have just been too much.''
Both Davis and Shell officials refused to say how much Shell is paying for the sponsorship, but Davis said it was enough.
''We wanted to do something to restore an important part of the city,'' said Marvin E. Odum, executive vice president of Shell Exploration & Production, which operates in New Orleans. ''We're not going to disclose how much it is.''
With the financial backing, Davis was predicting the festival would be presented on the same scale fans are accustomed to.
The lineup of music will be announced later in the month, but New Orleans native Fats Domino, whose home in the Lower Ninth Ward was flooded by Hurricane Katrina, will be among the featured acts. Domino was also the subject of this year's Jazz Fest poster.
Davis said the festival will take place at its usual location — the historic Fair Grounds horse racing track — on the last weekend of April and the first weekend in May, its traditional dates.
''This is going to be a homecoming party for thousands of New Orleans musicians, chefs and crafts people'' Davis said.
Along with Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest is one of New Orleans' major tourist attractions. Average annual attendance, including locals and tourists, is roughly 500,000.
Jazz Fest, the first major tourism event following Mardi Gras in New Orleans, will play an important part is jump-staring the area economy, Davis said.
''A full-fledged Jazz Fest will generate an average of $200 million for the State of Louisiana and the city,'' Davis said.
The festival features a variety of musical acts playing simultaneously on numerous stages on the Fair Grounds infield, along with food booths featuring Louisiana cuisine and numerous arts and crafts venues.
''There was extensive damage to the grandstand and the stable areas,'' said Randy Soth, Churchill Downs senior vice president and general manager of the Fair Grounds. ''And as it turns out, the Jazz Fest uses just about every square inch of those areas.''
Contractors are already at work making repairs, Soth said.
Among the challenges facing this year's organizers: attracting big-name acts, as well as rounding up local musicians who have scattered around the nation after their homes, and their local performance venues, were damaged by Katrina.
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation is a nonprofit institution and uses proceeds from the festival to support projects designed to preserve the area's music and cultural heritage.

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