Jazz Fest organizers clarify a policy that they didn't announce.
As a part of The New Orleans Advocate’s coverage of the crowd on the second Saturday of Jazz Fest this year, Mark Guarino and Jaquetta White quoted festival organizers as saying that the Acura Stage track was standing room-only—something that was news to me.
I checked with Jazz Fest and a spokesperson confirmed that yes, that was the policy, that it was handled by security on the first weekend, and that signs were posted on Friday, May 1 to publicize the new rule. The rule was not announced, but it went into effect on April 24.
This might seem obvious, but the festival will have better luck getting compliance with a policy if people know it. Waiting until part way through the second week to publicize a change of that magnitude seems cavalier. I didn’t see the track during The Who, so I don’t know if it was chair and tarp-free, but it’s hard to imagine it was.
Jazz Fest producer Quint Davis talked to Nola.com’s Keith Spera about the track and the chairs:
The biggest element in how the festival flows and feels with this many people is the chairs and the tarps. The festival was always designed as this free-flowing thing. That's why we have all these stages, and you can walk from one stage to the other.
A person standing takes up three square feet. The last few years, this idea of laying out a tarp, putting up an umbrella, and claiming your area, even if you go off to get food or see somebody else – that takes up 10 square feet a person. It's three times as much.
We have to conquer those chairs. If those chairs weren't there, that whole crowd would have shrunk, not in half but at least by a third.
Spera asked if he might ban chairs and tarps.
I don't have the answer …. But we have to do something, particularly where we need flow. They're a blockade.
Whether or not you ban chairs from the festival, I don't know. But certainly there are places that shouldn't have chairs in order to maintain a good flow.
While the Elton John overflow on to the track got the most attention, the track around the Gentilly Stage for Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga was virtually impassable, as was the track beside the Congo Square Stage for Frankie Beverly and Maze.
Questioning the place of chairs particularly is interesting because the festival’s core demographic—the aging baby boomer—has the will and the money for a weekend or two of Jazz Fest, but not necessarily the knees or backs to do it without sitting.