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NOLA TRICENTENNIAL – 300 YEARS AND COUNTING

Celebrations that showcase not only a chronological milestone but a gateway to the rebirth of NOLA

Words by Saashya Rodrigo

New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA): ‘America’s Most Interesting City.’ Though small in size, the city has preserved its history, cul-ture, music and traditions better than any other in the United States. ‘The Big Easy,’ as it’s sometimes called, is a 350 square metre expanse of land on the Mississippi River near the Gulf of Mexico. Surrounded by Southern Louisiana’s swamp lands, this hot and humid gem is a ‘must visit’ for travel enthusiasts.
NOLA is the perfect juxtaposition of small town hospitality and big city nightlife infused with unparalleled charm. Known for its parades and festivals, this vibrant city’s most iconic celebration is undoubtedly the annual Mardi Gras.
But an even bigger celebration is brewing on the streets of New Orleans…
Year 2018 is a milestone for NOLA as the typical festivities of this small city are ramped up to celebrate its tricentennial – 300 years of embracing, preserving and improving upon everything for which New Orleans stands.
Regardless of whether or not you’ve visited New Orleans, 2018 offers visitors NOLA like it’s never been experienced before.

New Orleans | Cinnamon Magazine

IMAGE SOURCES: MEDIA SERVICES PHOTOFILE (PHIL ROEDER, PETER BURKA, INFROGMATION OF NEW ORLEANS/CREATIVE COMMONS)

 

EVENTS

NOLA has weathered many a storm. Besides the literal storm of Katrina that devastated the city in 2005, New Orleans has had to overcome its fair share of economic, racial and political struggles. In fact, in this post-9/11 era, NOLA is known for having withstood more tragedies than any city in the nation – obstacles that it fiercely overcame.
The city is using its tricentennial celebrations not only as a chronological milestone but also a gateway to the rebirth of NOLA. It’s a time to remember the struggles, recognise the city’s progress, celebrate the resilience of its people and plan for the future of this ever growing city.

IMAGE SOURCES: MEDIA SERVICES PHOTOFILE (PHIL ROEDER, PETER BURKA, INFROGMATION OF NEW ORLEANS/CREATIVE COMMONS)

 

Launching the celebrations is NOLA’s famous ‘Rockin’ New Year’s Eve’ by Dick Clark Productions on 31 December. With a star-studded concert, drinks will flow down the aptly named Bourbon Street as crowds from across the world gather to begin the tricentennial countdown to midnight, which will be followed by a fireworks display.
The year will flow into a series of musical events, exhibitions and cultural festivities that relate to the tricentennial. And the celebrations will come to an end in May with the closing of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and a Tricentennial Fireworks Show.

IMAGE SOURCES: MEDIA SERVICES PHOTOFILE (PHIL ROEDER, PETER BURKA, INFROGMATION OF NEW ORLEANS/CREATIVE COMMONS)

 

HISTORY

The rich history of NOLA is undoubtedly the city’s strongest defining characteristic. Originally inhabited by native Americans, New Orleans as we know it today was established in 1718 by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville from Montreal, New France (modern-day Canada).
At the city’s epicentre was Place d’Armes, which is known as Jackson Square today. It wasn’t until a hurricane wiped out most of the city in 1722 that the streets were reconfigured into a grid that comprises today’s French Quarter. The French ceded the city to Spain in the mid-18th century only to regain control of it in 1803. The territory was soon sold to the US through the Louisi-ana Purchase.

It wasn’t long before NOLA became the wealthiest city in America. This is of major historical significance since a majority of New Orleans’ population were people of colour: a segregated group of society that was able to live and work freely in this city.
With strong cultural influences from France and Spain, as well as Caribbean and African countries, NOLA has become a unique conglomerate of people who brought with them their food, music, art and traditions that make up a veritable melting pot.

IMAGE SOURCES: MEDIA SERVICES PHOTOFILE (PHIL ROEDER, PETER BURKA, INFROGMATION OF NEW ORLEANS/CREATIVE COMMONS)

 

MUSIC

In the 19th century ‘New World,’ the only place in which slaves could own drums was NOLA. Between African dance and drumming, as well as the infusion of ethnic groups that also valued music, the people of New Orleans developed a sound that we now call jazz.
New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz. It is where some of the greatest jazz musicians of all time like Louis Armstrong resided. With so many music and dance cultures in one city, it was and still is common for people to play music and dance on the streets of NOLA.

IMAGE SOURCES: MEDIA SERVICES PHOTOFILE (PHIL ROEDER, PETER BURKA, INFROGMATION OF NEW ORLEANS/CREATIVE COMMONS)

 

FOOD

Gumbo – a literal multicultural melting pot – is a stew of native American seasonings and vegetables introduced by West African slaves. Typical gumbo, which happens to be a West African word, includes shrimp and sausage served over rice.

IMAGE SOURCES: MEDIA SERVICES PHOTOFILE (PHIL ROEDER, PETER BURKA, INFROGMATION OF NEW ORLEANS/CREATIVE COMMONS)

 

Beignets (originally introduced by the French-Creole colonists) are a simple sweet treat and a NOLA staple. Yeast dough cut into squares is fried and showered generously with powdered sugar. And it is best eaten hot!

IMAGE SOURCES: MEDIA SERVICES PHOTOFILE (PHIL ROEDER, PETER BURKA, INFROGMATION OF NEW ORLEANS/CREATIVE COMMONS)

 

Crawfish etouffée means ‘smothered crawfish’ in French – a fairly accurate term that describes this savoury favourite. Made with a blonde roux and plump craw-fish, the thick stew is smothered in creole seasoning and served over rice.

IMAGE SOURCES: MEDIA SERVICES PHOTOFILE (PHIL ROEDER, PETER BURKA, INFROGMATION OF NEW ORLEANS/CREATIVE COMMONS)

 

King cake is a Mardi Gras favourite that dates back to the Middle Ages and is thought to commemorate the Three Wise Men who saw Jesus on the Twelfth Night. The braided Danish pastry is laced with cinnamon and iced in purple (justice), green (faith) and gold (power). If you find a small plastic baby hidden inside the cake, the next one is on you!

IMAGE SOURCES: MEDIA SERVICES PHOTOFILE (PHIL ROEDER, PETER BURKA, INFROGMATION OF NEW ORLEANS/CREATIVE COMMONS)

 

The recipe for po-boys is nearly 100 years old. When the Great Depression brought about strikes and unemployment, a few former streetcar (tram) workers decided to open a sandwich shop selling what they called ‘po boys.’ The original was a simple recipe of a French loaf stuffed with potatoes and roast beef gravy.

IMAGE SOURCES: MEDIA SERVICES PHOTOFILE (PHIL ROEDER, PETER BURKA, INFROGMATION OF NEW ORLEANS/CREATIVE COMMONS)

 

Since NOLA was the main port of entry for bananas imported from Central and South America, the owner of Brennan’s restaurant Owen Brennan took it upon himself to create a dessert that would promote this new imported fruit.

Bananas Foster (named after his friend Richard Foster) consists of bananas cooked in a brown sugar sauce with cinnamon, rum and banana liqueur. The cooked bananas serve as the bed for vanilla ice cream drizzled with the brown sugar sauce. It isn’t ready to eat until alcohol is added to the dish and ignited.

 

IMAGE SOURCES: MEDIA SERVICES PHOTOFILE (PHIL ROEDER, PETER BURKA, INFROGMATION OF NEW ORLEANS/CREATIVE COMMONS)

 

FUN FACTS

  • NOLA’s voodoo magic was introduced to the US in New Orleans
  • Don’t be surprised to find alligator and turtle on menus in NOLA
  • New Orleans is the birthplace of poker
  • St. Louis Cathedral in NOLA is the country’s oldest operating cathedral
  • The city was home to the country’s first opera house

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