High notes and sights of Jazz Fest

Monday, April 28, 2008

NEW ORLEANS — The crowds that are usually jammed in almost hip-to-hip for each day's closing acts at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival were much smaller Sunday.

A second day of heavy rain did the thinning, leaving muddy, soggy, but apparently happy groups in front of the festival stages for the final acts.

The grounds, which were surprisingly dry Sunday morning with only puddles in the low areas, were finally waterlogged after the day's downpour. People traipsed through ankle-deep puddles and sank in mud to their shoetops. Dark splatters of mud decorated everyone's calves.

"What's to mind," said Nancy Jones, 46, of Scranton, Pa., who was attending her fifth Jazz Fest. "It's much cooler than usual, much less crowded, and the music and food is just as great."

A deep puddle separated the crowd watching Elvis Costello and Allen Toussain. At the festival's other major stage, the crowd had no trouble making the switch from Irma Thomas, billed as the "Soul Queen of New Orleans," to country music star Tim McGraw.

"We're partaking in the full smorgasbord," said Oliver Brown, 32, of Dallas.

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The other half of the festival — the Heritage part — is represented in several large tents that house everything from the history of Cowboys in Louisiana to the Native American Village to Louisiana crafts and festivals.

Junior Martin displayed about a dozen of the Cajun accordions he and his family make in Lafayette, La. The accordions take about five months to make, he said. Working with his son, daughter and grandson, who work after school and on weekends, he makes about 100 accordions a year, he said.

"These are already sold," Martin said, pointing at those on display. "But I don't really sell them here. Not too many people are walking around with $2,100 in their pockets."

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The Paulin Brothers Brass Band were the first band on the Jazz & Heritage Stage Sunday morning and took the opportunity to honor the band's founder, Ernest "Doc" Paulin, who passed away last November at the age of 100.

Paulin, who came from a musical family, influenced many New Orleans musicians. He also raised quite a few of them.

Paulin had 13 children. Six of them went on to be professional musicians and themselves.

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Three members of Muses, the all-women Carnival Krewe that parades in New Orleans at Mardi Gras time, demonstrated the making of their "glitter shoes," in the Folklife Village. The shoes, covered with glitter, faux jewels, feathers and other materials, are handed from the parade floats to those along the routes.

"It's become one of the most coveted throws of Mardi Gras," said Virginia Saussy.

Inspired by the famous coconuts the Krewe of Zulu dispenses to the throngs, Muses' 770 riders manage to decorate about 500 shoes each year.

They buy used shoes, ranging from high-heels to boots, to decorate.

"We get together for our equivalent of a sewing bee," Saussy said. "But there's more champagne than at a sewing bee."

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