April 26 2010 | Latest NewsMomentum still rolling with French Quarter Fest.
Friday, April 16, 2010
BY: Richard A. Webster, Staff Writer
Fears that momentum built by the Saints Super Bowl victory eventually would run dry were eradicated with the French Quarter Festival.
Massive crowds flooded the Vieux Carre and riverfront for the three-day event, which bodes well for Jazz Fest and other upcoming events, said Marci Schramm, executive director of French Quarter Festivals.
“I talked to my colleagues in the tourism industry and mayor’s office, and there is a feeling that it’s a combination of things, including the Super Bowl,” Schramm said. “We’ve gotten over the stigma of Katrina. The city is on such a high note with the press we’re getting with the new show ‘Treme.’ We’re back on the radar with people from around the country in terms of being one of America’s most unique cities, a great place to visit and family friendly.”
Attendance for the 27th annual French Quarter Festival topped 512,000, compared with 441,000 in 2009, breaking all previous records.
Hotel occupancy hit 100 percent and the majority of rooms were booked by December.
More than 45,000 people rode the Algiers-Gretna ferry to the French Quarter compared with 22,000 in 2009.
Festival-goers consumed 944 kegs of beer compared with 748 last year, according to Abita, the official provider of beer for the festival.
The best indicator that the crowds were bigger than ever was the NOPD’s decision to shut down Decatur Street, Schramm said.
“They never do that except during Mardi Gras. I asked them how they determine when to do that and they said when pedestrians take over the street and it becomes unsafe. And it got to that point. There were so many people and they were having so much fun they just literally took over the streets.”
Scott Boswell, owner of Stanley and Stella restaurants, said he served more than 1,000 people at Stanley on Saturday during the festival compared with an average of 700 people on a typical weekend.
“I’ve never seen so many people in the French Quarter as I have the last few weeks,” he said. “It’s just a beautiful thing to sit there complaining because you can’t get through the crowds. I was trying to get my hair cut Friday, and it took me 20 minutes to get from one side to the other.”
It’s not just the past few months that business has been good, Boswell said. It’s been steadily growing over the past few years. Sales at Stella increased by 19 percent in 2009.
“The numbers we’re doing have just been phenomenal,” he said.
If that trend continues, Schramm expects the 10th annual Satchmo Summer Festival in August to set records as well.
“We’ve almost outgrown our current location at the U.S. Mint. We’re exploring where to move next, and we’re strongly considering Armstrong Park. That’s always been the hope and the dream, and when construction there is done we’ll probably move it.”â€¢