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Folklife Tents Bring Craft Culture To Jazz Fest

Allyce Andrew

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival continues its second weekend today. There is no rain expected, but there will be mud. When the weather is not so friendly, more folks head under the tents.

And that’s where you find most cultural displays at Jazz Fest.

Rachel Ornelas directs the folklife village at the festival. All year she vets artisans around the state, with the help of folklorists and anthropologists.

The demonstrations are meant to represent all of south Louisiana’s heritage, from carving a wooden boat to making an accordion. Ornelas says displays change over time, along with the population.

“In the recent years we’ve had a lot more Latino culture represented, which has been a lot of fun,” she says. “We’ve had piñata makers, and mariachis. We’re actually having some this weekend.”

Jazz Fest might not seem the ideal place to soak up information about history and culture, but Ornelas says the festival is a valuable tool for education and understanding.

“We have a big Native tent that we have every year. People from out of town or different states are like, ‘I had no idea you had a big Native American population in Louisiana.’ So I think that’s the one people are most surprised about. And then the actual culture of the community that we have displayed. We have Mardi Gras Indians and Social Aid and Pleasure Club crafts there. People are really excited to talk to a Mardi Gras Indian or someone who makes the Social Aid and Pleasure club outfits. They’re surprised at what does into that type of production.”

The folklife village includes five tents, on topics from building trades to celebrations. It’s between the Fais Do Do and Gentilly stages.