The festival claims a record on Saturday.
It has become a ritual that each year after the French Quarter Festival ends, it announces its attendance, frequently claiming records. This year, officials say that it drew 562,000 people and set a one day record of 303,000 on Saturday. That's not in the entire Quarter; that's only in Jackson Square and the riverfront area. Organizers are saying in effect that a body of people as large as the entire population of Cinncinnati, Ohio (296,223) was in Woldenberg Park, along with Riverwalk, in Jackson Square and at the Old U.S. Mint. If we assume there were 4,000 in the rest of the French Quarter, the population the size of that of Pittsburgh (307,484) could have been in the Quarter that day.
There's no doubt that the French Quarter Festival is an overwhelming success. Whether a city the size of Lexington, Kentucky (301,569) or one the size of Orlando, Florida (243,195) or Baton Rouge (230,139) packed into the Vieux Carre, there were a lot of people there. But organizers make success look shady when they claim such numbers for an event that isn't ticketed, one for which getting a meaningful headcount looks difficult if not impossible. As Alison Fensterstock reported yesterday:
Although French Quarter Fest doesn’t sell tickets, it arrives at an estimated attendance via counts taken at the entry and exit points of major stages by Fess Security workers. Their method, which has been in use since 2004, adjusts to allow for repeat entries and exits. The total figure doesn’t include attendance at the stages on Royal, Chartres, Bourbon and Decatur streets, nor at the French Market or special events such as the battle of the bands and a concert at St. Louis Cathedral.
Another factor that goes into the estimate is the number of individual downloads of the official French Quarter Festival app for iPhone and Android; last weekend, approximately 16,000 smartphone users either got the app for the first time, or updated an already-downloaded version to the 2013 edition.
Anyone who has walked by the entrances to the Square and the riverfront knows how hard it would be for the Fess employees to count festgoers with any precision, and once organizers factor in a calculation to try and adjust and make the number more accurate, it certainly has no value as a record and has minimal value as a proclamation.
It would be nice of one year the French Quarter Festival saved these numbers for its sponsors and let the memories of a good weekend at a very good, very popular festival be the takeaway for those at home.
Our photographer David Fary was at the festival Sunday. Here were his last shots at FQF 2013.