Saturday, April 13, 2013

30 Days of Why I Love New Orleans - Day 17

Jambalaya Jubilee-ing, French Quarter Fest-ing, Bent Pages—and Strawberries!

          Spring comes around, springs-up, so to say (very bad pun) every year.  Spring means you can get set for the French Quarter Fest—one of the largest free music festivals in the country. There’s something as fresh and fun as the spring season about the Fest—you walk around, you see stands with wonderful and incredible goodies to eat, you see all kinds of performers. It’s still spring so the dead heat of summer hasn’t set in, and if you’re a music lover in any way, it will put a spring in your step! There’s one thing, of course, that founders ask—don’t bring in food and drink, buy it there. They want it to stay free for all, and they need sponsors—those selling food and wares along the way—to be able to keep it up.
                Walk on down by the river—you’ll find stages, booths, food, drink . . . great things. Art! Fun, you name it. But it’s called the French Quarter Fest—and the French Quarter is all about being involved. The date may be a bit different each year, so you always need to look it up—just
key in French Quarter Fest for whatever year and you can get the low-down. Around the city, hotels and bars get in on the action and you can go just about anywhere and hear a special group. Many places have French Quarter Festival specials on their drink and food menus and it’s really—let the good times roll!
                So, the city also gets busy, crazy; sometimes a bit high on room prices. What do you do, what do you do? Well, you could plan to come in and enjoy a wonderful day of music, food, and spring festing—then take a side trip. Head out to Houma, Louisiana. It just takes about an hour.
                Houma is where you’ll find Bent Pages. And the Jambalaya Jubilee.
                The Jambalaya Jubilee Writers Conference is in association with the Nicholls State College and the Terrebonne Parish Library. It’s a day filled with panels and speeches and the organizers bring in some of the most renowned and popular authors today and they run the gamut on the written word—from local to International authors, fiction and non-fiction, children’s books, homespun books, thrillers, you name it. Every year, you’ll find a new roster and a few favorites they’ve been so nice to, they just can’t get rid of them.  (Like me.)

Yes . . . they have a Louisianian Idol—that’s where you turn in a few pages of a work in progress and have it read—and critiqued by a panel of editors, agents and an author or two.
While you’re in Houma, of course, you must stop by Bent Pages. It’s run by some of the most wonderful booksellers in the world—and possibly the world’s most unusual booksellers as well!
                In a world where we are increasingly turning to the Internet for songs and music and book stores are on the demise, Bent Pages is a precious and unique gem.

                Houma, the Jubilee, and Bent Pages are on the route out of the city on the Lower Mississippi Plantation route so it’s not all that far out of the way if you’re exploring, learning more about Cajun history, or seeking out bayou and environmental tours.  Bent Pages bookstore can be found at 1422 Barrow Street in Houma. There’s a charming porch that surrounds the front of the store with rocking chairs so you can grab your ‘maybe’ purchases and sit in the cool shade and rock while going through them. First, of course, you can buy your coffee and tea or soup and sandwich in the café. Nothing run of the mill here; the café is as one-of-a-kind as the
shop. Great coffee!
                Every month, dozens and dozens of people drive in from all over the area to pick up big bags of books; Molly and Kay are readers and they know their clientele and are trusted to pick out reading material for others. This doesn’t mean that they don’t like strangers. They know authors, they know books, and if they don’t know something, they’ll find out for you. This is a place where it’s just really pleasant to be. Down home hospitality exists.
                But, please, remember your manners. This is not a chain. If you like to pull out books and just dump them on the chairs or other bookshelves. Molly will politely remind you that if you’re in a bookstore, you can probably read, and if you can read, you know that C comes after B, and therefore you should know how to re-shelve a book! Molly is very matter-of-fact. But, she’ll also happily do a lot more digging for you, play charades while trying to help you figure out an author or a book, and go way above and beyond the usual.
                There is nowhere in the world you can go that is quite like Bent Pages, in all kinds of great and amazing ways!
                For authors and readers--they run the most amazing book signings you can imagine. There’s something about home and comfort and all good things here.
                Obviously you don’t need a special date to stop by a book store, but for the French
Quarter Fest and the Jambalaya Jubilee, you can check it all out on line—they try to coincide every year.
                While all this is happening in NOLA and Houma, there’s also a terrific and yummy thing happening in the opposite direction, but still, not all that far.  It’s the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival. So let’s say you could start out hearing some great music and enjoying wonderful food, arts, and crafts at the French Quarter Festival, then drive on out to Houma and enjoy the book world. There are lovely places outside the city to stay. Then, you could drive on back to the city, maybe see some more music and head out the opposite way to take part in the delicious craziness of the Strawberry Festival.

               But any time you want to head to New Orleans, pop on line and find out what is going on. The state loves festivals, music, art, food, and books. There are many special events that take place during the year. If spring has sprung, however . . . .
                Ya’all come on down, you hear?

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