A warm welcome is phase one of a visit to the Crescent City. Food will follow. And music.
“New Orleans is just like your grandma. You come home, she’s always got a hot plate of food for you and she’s gonna invite you to her table to sit down and talk about what’s ever on your mind. And she’s gonna listen,” said New Orleans native Tarriona “Tank” Ball, the front woman of the band Tank and the Bangas.
As the city celebrates its 300th anniversary in 2018, New Orleans is welcoming visitors for a range of events, exhibitions and activities to highlight its first three centuries.
Founded in 1718 by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville 100 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River, the valuable port city of New Orleans has long been defined by struggle, joy, resistance and survival.
“New Orleans, The Founding Era,” an exhibit at The Historic New Orleans Collection that runs through May 27, traces the city’s first few decades. And in addition to special 2018 anniversary events, perennial favorites such as the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, kicking off April 27, are drawing the usual big crowds.
CNN Travel spoke to New Orleanians about their city, and their pride and passion for it is clear in the video above and in their thoughts here:
“I love New Orleans because this is a place that has thrived based on the blending, but also the survival, of cultures from around the world … from Africa, from the Caribbean, from Europe, indigenous cultures that came together and formed something new and creative. And it’s a city that when I’m feeling down, when I feel despair for the challenges that we are facing that seem insurmountable, I am lifted up by the sound of the nearby high school practicing the best damn brass music that I have ever heard. These babies who were born and bred on the spirit of music, the spirit of our ancestors.”
— Imani Jacqueline Brown, activist with Blights Out
“We’re very pleased and happy that we’ve survived 300 years through all sorts of calamities … But what’s consistent throughout it all is that we’ve come back and that we’ve been resistant to failure. We’ve been persistent in our ability to say we’re going to be better than ever. I think we’re all using the tricentennial as an opportunity to say, ‘How can we build a better city for not only ourselves, but for the generations that follow?’ ”
— Mark Romig, New Orleans Saints stadium announcer and CEO of New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation
“New Orleans is not a place that everybody gravitates to out of an accident. It has to do with the people that are here and how it is that culture literally bubbles up from the streets. It’s the way people speak to each other … You don’t have to know somebody. You just pass by them and it’s kind of like, ‘Hey, how you doing? How’s it going?’ A conversation could jump off from that. It’s the way the music bubbles out of every place.”
— Carol Bebelle, co-founder and executive director of Ashé Cultural Arts Center
“You have to come here with the attitude in your mind that this city is different than most cities and that we do things here that make us very happy. We eat a lot. You can be eating in the top restaurant or you can eat in somebody’s home, and they’re cooking beans. It doesn’t make any difference. Food is important in New Orleans.”
— Ella Brennan, restaurateur, Commander’s Palace
“I had to leave. I had to come back. I actually had to be an adult. I had to date the city, in a sense … I was courted by it. We went out, we ate together, and I actually realized, ‘you are really special.’ To any guy out there that got a girl in their life, and they treat her like she is just as normal as Monday, you don’t want to have to leave her to come back to realize how actually special she is, because that specialness been there. It’s just, I guess, been waiting to be discovered. I’m happy I discovered it. I’m happy I came back.”
— Tarriona “Tank” Ball, Tank and the Bangas front woman who left New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina