Celebrating Old Man River

June 07, 2022
On Saturday, July 23, the New Orleans Jazz Museum’s 10th Annual NOLA River Fest will celebrate the cultural, economic, environmental and inspirational contributions of the Mississippi River to the Crescent City. For centuries, Old Man River has been an important route for trade and travel, has sustained livelihoods, offers opportunities for recreation, and has a significant role in the culture, health and livelihoods of people along its long route.

The Mississippi River, the longest river of North America, drains with its major tributaries an area of approximately 1.2 million square miles or about one-eighth of the entire continent. As rich as the literary tradition that grew up along the Mississippi is, the river’s musical legacy is arguably even more profound. The music that developed largely has been the product of the cultural cross-pollination of black and white folk music and popular styles, with roots in both West Africa and Europe. Growing from the creations of African American slaves who were prevented from maintaining their native musical traditions and felt the need to improvise homegrown forms of musical expression, jazz evolved in the complex cultural mix of New Orleans and traveled up the river, finding its way to cities north and beyond.

Drum songs, folk songs, blues and jazz were all created and recreated along the Mississippi River’s banks. Musicians have been truly prolific not only in the sheer volume of works about the river, but by the need to create entirely new musical styles so they could describe their feelings about themselves and the river. The free and open to the public NOLA River Fest will celebrate the environmental, cultural, and economic impact of the Mississippi River and the land it built through live music, presentations, panels, walking tours, delicious food vendors, a full bar, and children’s activities all focused on the seafood industry, coastal restoration, and sustainability. It will include a series of panels and performances dedicated to the legacy of the Mississippi River, its culture, and its inhabitants. The panels will expose visitors to first-hand accounts from leaders in business sustainability, water management, urban reforestation, fishing, and water transportation. These educational opportunities will emphasize the responsibility that we share in preserving our culture and community.

NOLA River Fest will also be livestreamed from the Jazz Museum’s Facebook page. Either way, the festival will be a space for connection and conversation, exploring why the Mississippi River should be conserved and celebrated while investigating and celebrating the connections that waterways enable between cultures.

The summer is a great time to explore the cool New Orleans Jazz Museum in the town where jazz was born! Visitors will enjoy a series of exhibits on themes relating to jazz history and culture. Each exhibit is personally engaging with listening stations, films, instruments, a recording studio, and a dance floor. Visit the event calendar at nolajazzmuseum.org for their popular Jazz on the Balcony concert series. If you are in town, grab a chair or blanket and a curbside picnic and join others on the lush lawn of the historic U.S. Mint for live local music! If not, tune in online and shake a tail feather wherever you are!