New Orleans is filled with happily anticipated personal traditions: holidays, whether sacred or purely hedonistic, are celebrated a certain way; family dishes are cooked exactly the same each year. It’s the annual rhythm of our lives and one that helps us move (some would say lurch) from season to season. Jazz Fest is a perfect example: Its traditions range from meeting friends at the same place every year to buying the new poster or shirt to getting immediately in line for the gotta-have Crawfish Monica or Soft Shell Crab Po-Boy.
But other New Orleanians claim a pre-Jazz Fest event as their sacred tradition. For them, it’s the official beginning to New Orleans’ 12-day orgy of music. Not far from the Fair Grounds, this tradition takes place in City Park. It’s the annual, free Swing in the Oaks concert presented by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, always scheduled the Wednesday night before the first Jazz Fest weekend. And, in a nod to a new tradition, it will take place on the glorious Goldring/Woldenberg Great Lawn.
The Great Lawn, where formerly the tennis courts were located, across from Storyland, was an integral part of the Park’s 2005 master plan.
“Our goal was to transform that area into a more entertainment-oriented space,” explains Bob Becker, the park’s Chief Executive Officer. “It may seem odd to create a green space inside a green space, but we really wanted a central area — somewhere kids could run, where weddings could be celebrated and concerts could take place, where you could just throw a Frisbee. It’s done what we always hoped it would: It’s drawn people to it during the day and for night-time events.”
We don’t recommend throwing a Frisbee during Wednesday night’s concert. It will certainly get lost somewhere among the thousands of people who will be attending. It’s actually much more fun to roam the Lawn and check out the creative picnic settings and decorations that will appear. Those traditions range from full-fledged extravaganzas with candelabras, white tablecloths, wine and glam food of the romantically inclined, to the sprawling family groups for whom this annual event is one to share with their children and relatives.
All in all, it would be hard to find a better way to spend a springtime evening than munching on picnic food while soaking in the sounds of the LPO as it serenades listeners with selections ranging from The Sound of Music to the Suite from Star Wars and the stirring 1812 Overture.
The LPO concert, sponsored by Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home and Fidelity Homestead Savings Bank, begins at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 27. If you arrive at 5:30, you can hear the British Band of New Orleans first.
In the event of rain, the concert will take place on Thursday, April 28. Donations of non-perishable food benefitting Second Harvest Food Bank will be collected at the concert.