City of New Orleans Celebrates 50 Years of Jazz Fest

photo - city of new orleans honors 50 years of jazz fest
This April, thousands of locals and visitors will converge on the Fair Grounds Racecourse for the 50th Annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Jazz Fest’s two weekends at the Fair Grounds, along with the week of evening concerts in between, are a far cry from the event’s modest beginnings.

And recently, the City of New Orleans held an event where it recognized and honored many of the people responsible for keeping Jazz Fest going through all these years. Among that number, was local attorney, David Oestreicher, II … who served Jazz Fest as president and as a member of the board during some of it’s most challenging and critical financial times.

It was, through Oestreicher’s leadership, that Jazz Fest remained solvent.

Oestreicher took over the post from an ailing Warren McDaniles in 2004. That was the first year ever in which Jazz Fest had to cancel an entire day due to tumultuous weather conditions, and it bore a financial hit.

The Foundation was more than $600,000 in debt. There was talk about the direction the Festival was on, and also talk about finding a new producer for the event. As such, Oestreicher, along with the aid of Joan Rhodes, Byron Hughey and Nancy Marinovic decided swift action was needed. This meant issuing an RFP for a new producer, cutting half the staff and looking at questionable areas like ticket sales, which were not being scanned as well as an amorphous transportation contract. The contract of the executive director also was not renewed. In short, Oestreicher and his board discovered that very little at the Jazz & Heritage Foundation was transparent, and they set out to correct it.

In a momentous confrontation, the Board decided to renew its deal with Festival Productions, Inc., the long-time producer of the Jazz Fest, a company run by Quint Davis. Other companies bidding on the contract at that time were AEG and Rehage Entertainment.

The Foundation required, and Festival Productions, Inc. was able to supply, a significant guarantee. A committee worked behind the scenes further to secure a partnership agreement between FPI and AEG, which resulted in a 15 year long financial agreement that solidified the viability of the Foundation, in return for relinquishing production decisions.


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