Scoot: Essence Fest crowd not what you might have thought
by Scoot,posted Jul 7 2014 6:52PM
Every large crowd that takes over our city for a major event has a collective personality and attitude, and since I live in the heart of the area where visitors stay and party, I usually get a strong sense of the crowds that temporarily dominate downtown and the French Quarter.
The preconceived impressions of the annual influx of the Essence Festival crowd to New Orleans are definite. Many react to the Essence Fest crowd being in town by saying, “Well, I’m not going downtown this weekend!” And the promise to avoid downtown during Essence goes beyond the traffic and the city and the crowds – many express concern about the attitude of the crowd itself.
I have always been honest about what I see and experience in my neighborhood. I have been honest on the air about a different “element” in the French Quarter over the past 6 months or so. And I will be honest about the crowd that was in town for Essence Fest this past weekend.
As expected, downtown and the French Quarter were packed with visitors in town for Essence Fest. As I walked down Bourbon Street and through the streets of the CBD, I was bumped into often, and in almost every case the person said, “Oh, I’m sorry!” It was a very polite and courteous crowd.
Legal parking spots were rare and coveted throughout the downtown area, and one night I found a perfect spot on a corner. After getting out of the car, I realized I could have parked closer to the curb so I got back in the car and someone turned the corner and pulled up behind me thinking that I was about to pull out. Quite often there is great frustration when it’s realized the person is not actually leaving the parking spot you were hoping to get. When I got out of the car signaled that I was not leaving and the person in the car that had pulled up behind me waiting for me to leave just smiled and waved when he realized I was not leaving. That was a different reaction than I’ve gotten from many others who displayed total frustration over the fact that I was not leaving.
There were numerous incidents of politeness with people on the sidewalks and people in cars. The Essence Fest crowd merged Friday night, July 4th, with thousands of locals who ventured downtown to see another spectacular fireworks display on the river and everyone seemed to get along. I sensed no tension.
Obviously, there were the usual few rowdy individuals, but I couldn’t tell if they were in town for Essence Fest, or locals who came in for the fireworks display on the river, or maybe just the regular French Quarter partiers. But the overwhelming feeling with the Essence Fest crowd in town was one of polite people who were thrilled to be in New Orleans and were here to have a good time. And they apparently did!
Often negative impressions are based on preconceived stereotypes, rather than real life experiences. The Essence Fest crowd was well-dressed with a great attitude and we will continue to embrace their annual visit to New Orleans.
Rush to judgment on the basis of stereotypes was flawed in the initial blame for the Bourbon Street shooting and in the initial defense of the Georgia father who left 22-month-old son to die in his hot car.
If you rushed to negatively judge the character of the Essence Fest crowd – you have learned another lesson about how rush to judgment is wrong!
If you were downtown or in the French Quarter over the weekend – did you have a good experience? Post your opinions on our Facebook page or send an email to Scoot@WWL.com.