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Sweet Sounds of Satchmo

Honoring New Orleans’ most famous native son, Satchmo SummerFest runs from July 31 – August 2.

From July 31 – August 2 (with a kickoff event on July 30), Satchmo SummerFest celebrates the life, legacy, and music of New Orleans’ most famous native son, Louis Armstrong. This year’s festival will be bigger than ever with the unveiling of a new Louis Armstrong exhibit, a special presentation to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and the new “Spirit of Satch” Awards that honor champions of jazz in the areas of music, media, philanthropy, and education.

All centered around the Louisiana State Museum’s Old U.S. Mintthis festival is free for kids (not to mention they can decorate their own second line umbrella for a special kids parade) and only $5 for adults. The fee, a new addition this year, will help keep the quality of the event high and build towards growth and future expansion. Read on for more of what to expect at this year’s Satchmo SummerFest.

The Music 

Louis Armstrong’s trumpet and iconic voice were his two most famous instruments, but at Satchmo SummerFest, you’ll find an array of sounds. The festival features music from more than 100 artists on two stages with a focus on local brass bands as well as contemporary and traditional jazz performers. You can also join in for free swing dance lessons twice daily at the Cornet Chop Suey Stage, from 11:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. and 3 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

On Friday, July 31, check out Preservation Hall Brass Band, Ellis Marsalis, Sharon Martin, James Andrews, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Deacon John, and Donald Harrison’s All Star Louis Armstrong Tribute.

On Saturday, August 1, tune in for Treme Brass BandThe Ella and Louis Tribute Band and Charmaine Neville, and choose between Bill Summers and Jazalsa or Corey Henry’s Treme Funket to close out the day.

On Sunday August 2, you won’t want to miss Jeremy Davenport, Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers, and New Orleans jazz vocalist Robin Barnes.

Jazz dancing lessons at Satchmo SummerFest. (Photo: Cheryl Gerber)
Jazz dancing lessons at Satchmo SummerFest. (Photo: Cheryl Gerber)

The Food

It wouldn’t be a New Orleans festival without good food, and Satchmo Fest is no exception. The event features a “Red Bean Alley” where local restaurants serve up a wide variety of great New Orleans food options, including fish beignets from Royal House, crawfish bread from Lakeview Harbor, shrimp remoulade from Tujague’s, and Creole hot sausage po-boys from Vaucresson Sausage Co.

Vegetarian choices include a tomato, basil, and mozzarella crêpe from Crêpes à la Cart, a mushroom pie with Creole taters from Lasyone’s Meatpie Restaurant, seaweed & cucumber salad from Ninja Restaurant and – because what’s Red Bean Alley without its namesake provision? – red beans and rice with mustard greens from The Praline Connection.

Quintin’s Ice Cream, fresh squeezed juices from Cool Fruit Sensations, mango daiquiris from New Orleans Original Daiquiris, and plenty of classic New Orleans snowballs from Plum Street Snoballs supply a sugar rush to match the sweet sounds of brass music.

A Silver Screen Benefit

On Thursday, July 30, Satchmo SummerFest hosts a fundraiser to benefit French Quarter Festivals Inc. (they put on the festival each year). A special screening of the 1956 classic High Society, starring Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly, and Satchmo himself will take place at Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré, one of the oldest community theaters in the country. A limited number of tickets are available online for $50. Admission includes refreshments, and hats, gloves, and seersuckers are encouraged for this red carpet event.

Satchmo’s NOLA Roots

Music history buffs and festival attendees looking for an escape from the heat can head to the Old U.S. Mint for a series of special events. A new exhibit will be featured, Satchmo: His Life in New Orleans, and includes rare artifacts such as Armstrong’s first cornet from the New Orleans Colored Waif’s Home side-by-side with the last Selmer trumpet he brought to his final visit to New Orleans in 1968.

The exhibit includes rare artifacts such as Armstrong’s first cornet side-by-side with the last Selmer trumpet he brought to his final visit to New Orleans in 1968.

Pages from Armstrong’s unpublished manuscripts will be included, in addition to rare audio from Armstrong’s private tapes. In addition, you’ll find a free seminar series all weekend long. Fascinating conversations about Louis Armstrong and the history and influence of jazz in New Orleans will also take place inside the museum.

A Nod to ‘Musical First-Responders’

In commemoration of the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a panel of representatives of “musical first-responders” will discuss what the city learned in the decade since the flood, with interviews and footage featuring those who fought to preserve New Orleans’ rich musical history following the storm. The panel takes place on Friday, July 31, promptly at noon on the third floor of the Old U.S. Mint. 

Other Special Events

In addition to music and education, Satchmo SummerFest showcases New Orleans’ most important indigenous traditions:

  • Attend the Opening Day Second Line on Friday, July 31, at 700 Decatur St. at 10:30 a.m.
  • Attend Sunday (Aug. 2) morning Jazz Mass at the historic St. Augustine Church in Treme
  • Take your little ones to specials Kids’ Second Line Parades happening on Saturday and Sunday at about 2 p.m (get to the Old U.S. Mint early so kids can decorate their own umbrellas to keep)
  • A Trumpet Tribute to Louis Armstrong closes the festival; Kermit Ruffins leads the tribute starting at 7:30 p.m. on the Red Beans and Ricely Yours stage on Sunday

Liz Beeson is an adventure-seeking marketing manager in New Orleans who loves the great outdoors and a good cup of coffee. When not plugging away at one of her many side projects, Liz can be found taking in a comedy show and exploring and photographing the many unique neighborhoods in the city.

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