What to do beyond Jazz Fest for the rest

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Far from the madding crowds, there are plenty of options for those who aren’t terribly festival when it comes to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell, or maybe not even the ancillary musical shows around the city over a two-week period.

And truth be told, it can often feel like Jazz Fest sucks the oxygen out of the cultural air even if New Orleans somehow continues to motor along outside the of the Fair Grounds. Not unlike Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest has its own rhythms, its own allure, its own vibe. And it’s not for everyone. There are other options.

“Jazz Fest is a premier music and cultural celebration in the City of New Orleans. Every year residents and visitors from across the world gather for two weekends of music, food, and fun,” said NORD CEO, Vic Richard. “What many don’t realize is there are lots of other fun things to do across our city, and NORD plays host to several family-friendly events.”

Other options have their own festive vibe.

“It may come as a surprise to some, but Jazz Fest is not the only place to enjoy great music and mouth-watering New Orleans food on the first Friday in May,’’ said Audubon Nature Institute President and CEO Ron Forman. “For four decades, Audubon has presented what’s now known as Whitney Zoo-To- Do on the picturesque grounds of Audubon Zoo. We like to call our black-tie fundraiser a party with a purpose because it has helped Audubon build and expand countless animal habitats and other Zoo projects over the years. And since the festivities don’t get going until 8 p.m., the young at heart can take in Jazz Fest and still have time to head on down to the Audubon Zoo for a little after-hours partying.’’

Here’s a little roundup to give you some ideas.

Zurich Golf Classic
April 23-29
TPC Louisiana, Avondale

The Zurich Classic is like Jazz Fest for golf fans; each of the 18 holes sets a stage for some of the best the PGA has to offer, most notably Masters champion Sergio Garcia and two-time Masters champ Bubba Watson. The tournament, in an attempt to boost attendance, agreed to create a two-man team format in 2017 and the results (beyond an attendance spike) included Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith taking the title in a playoff. The tournament also features an Executive Women’s Day, Celebrity Shootout, a Pro-Am, and a performance by Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. & The Zydeco Twisters following the tournament’s conclusion on Sunday evening. Single-Day Grounds Pass: $35; Weekly Badge: $85.

International Jazz Day
April 26
Treme Rec Center

NORD sponsors this opportunity to connect with music and community in the heart of Tremé. There will be a jazz concert in celebration of International Jazz Day in the birthplace of jazz, which will include a special performance from New Orleans Jazz singer Charmaine Neville.

NORD’s Movies in the Park
“The Princess and the Frog”; April 27, Lafitte Greenway
“Ghostbusters”; May 4, Behrman Playground
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Pirate’s Ball blends food, music and burlesque for a good cause: Odyssey House


Roxie le Rouge (Photo by Jason Kruppa)

WHAT: Pirate’s Ball 2016, benefiting Odyssey House
WHEN: Saturday (June 4), 7 p.m.
WHERE: Hyatt French Quarter New Orleans, 800 Iberville St.
MORE: Visit event website for tickets

Full disclosure: I’m related to one of the board members.

It was about a year ago when I was watching New Orleans burlesque performer Bella Blue work an audience before a show, peppering the audience with a lot of “Who’s been to a burlesque show before?”-type questions that had me scratching my head. Why was it so difficult to understand?, I thought. But as she began her performance, you could tell several men in the audience, and a handful of women, didn’t quite know how to react, and so came the occasional cat-call. (Those more in the know responded with eye rolls.)

When she performed for the 2015 Pirate’s Ball for Odyssey House, the crowd, though still a little taken aback by striptease taking over the House of Blues’ Parish stage (despite the regular presence there of“Bad Girls of Burlesque”), soaked it up. Hopefully, increasingly, mainstream audiences are getting it: that burlesque has proven to be a vital component of all kinds of entertainment options in New Orleans, from the various clubs around town to Voodoo Fest to, yes, fundraisers for worthy causes.

(Read more: Follow Odyssey House on Facebook)

That’s why it’s so cool to see another one of the top performer-producers, Roxie le Rouge of Big Deal Burlesque fame, serving as one of the entertainers for the Odyssey House’s Pirate’s Ball on Saturday (June 5) at the Hyatt French Quarter New Orleans.

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