One of the luxuries of living in New Orleans is that good food and good music are so prevalent that you can skip things and they come back around. Last year, I dedicated myself to Satchmo Fest, the celebration of all things Louis Armstrong, and I skipped White Linen Night entirely. This year, I had lunch at Satchmo and spent the evening at White Linen.
A native of New Orleans, Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong is said to have been handed a trumpet at 3 years old which he then played like a pro. Born in 1901 the grandson of slaves and abandoned by his father, Armstrong’s mother became a prostitute to help them survive. He was a juvenile delinquent who grew to adopt his cousin’s 3 year old special needs son who he cared for the rest of his life. The nickname, Satchmo, is said to be from his childhood days dancing on the streets for pennies. It’s said that he’d scoop up the change and stick it in his mouth to avoid theft, earning him the name, “Satchel Mouth” which shortened to Satchmo. Good story but maybe it’s true, maybe not because Armstrong was also legendary for his tall tales.
The 11th annual Satchmo Fest, held at the Old U.S. Mint, featured cocktails, tented halls to beat the heat, music on 2 stages all day all weekend, seminars & discussions and food galore. I started with a delicious bowl of Creole Tomato Gazpacho with Louisiana Crab Meat from Three Muses for $5. It was so refreshing and the pureed tomatoes were outstanding. Then, it was a fried seafood salad from another booth, then a Creole Crawfish Sausage PoBoy from Vaucresson Sausage Co. for $6. I finished with a Nectar Creme Snoball from Plum Street Snoballs for $3. Cold heaven in a cup.
As we were heading out, Treme Brass Band led a second line through the festival. Children carrying black and gold second line umbrellas marched around the perimeter before filtering onto the stage. Though I would have loved to stay and see Shamarr Allen & the Underdawgs or Soul Rebels Brass Band, I returned home to change into a white dress for White Linen Night, a celebration of art and galleries in the CBD (Central Business District).
Celebrated annually on the first Saturday of August, the White Linen Night’s dress code honors the years before air conditioning when New Orleanians wore white linen to reflect the summer sun’s heat. A free event, it is presented by the New Orleans Arts District Association and Whitney National Bank and includes the requisite live music on 2 stages, cocktails and high-end festival food.
Of course I had to have the subtle Lobster Dumplings from GW Fins ($5), which I’d sampled before at the Paint the Town Green Gala benefitting Raintree Children and Family Services. (Serving foster children and special needs kids since 1926, if you enter your email at Raintree’s site, you can win 2 tickets to next year’s Gala). The wonderful $7 Chilled Seafood Ceviche from Broussard’s Restaurant was fresh and refreshing.
Nearly 20 galleries on Julia Street open their doors wide, inviting everyone to come in and purchase art. The open doors also afford a slight but much needed air conditioning breeze through the street. In addition to the various gallery showings, the event also raises funds for the Contemporary Arts Center. The dancing National WWII Museum’s Victory Belles and Ingrid Lucia performed on opposite ends of Julia with musical guests Alex McMurray’s Old-Timey Revue sandwiched between. I’d seem McMurray on HBO’s Treme, but he was even better live.
At White Linen, the art is beautiful, the food is delicious and the music is top notch, but my favorite part was definitely the clothing. Everyone looked so sharp and fresh. Some women wore very high-end full length gauzy sundresses, others wore lacy shift minidresses. There were bold belts and dainty gold or white sandals. Men sported white ties, suspenders and hats to accent their white suits or shorts. The effect was elegant.
I meant to return to Satchmo Fest the next day to eat more treats and catch some music, but like I said before, in New Orleans, you can skip things and they come back around. As Satchmo sang, “What a wonderful world…”