Old Algiers RiverFest
Directly across the Mississippi River from downtown New Orleans and the French Quarter is another older section of the city known as Old Algiers. Founded in 1719, only a year after the founding of New Orleans proper, Old Algiers is situated on a sharp bend of the river and, because of this, the area is also called Algiers Point.
Historic and somewhat isolated from the rest of the city, Old Algiers celebrates its long heritage every year around mid-April during a weekend called the Old Algiers RiverFest. For two days, in typical New Orleans fashion, Old Algiers parties it up with a street festival featuring music, food and cultural offerings.
This continually growing festival, dedicated to preserving the traditional jazz and indigenous sounds that came of age along the banks of the Mississippi River, is an authentic New Orleans cultural experience that features performances by some of the top names in traditional jazz, gospel choirs, brass bands and Mardi Gras Indians. Old Algiers RiverFest also offers local cuisine, local and regional arts and crafts and children's activities along the levee near the Canal Street/Algiers Ferry landing.
It may be off the beaten track for most visitors, but Algiers Point is worth the ride across the river. Some call it "New Orleans' Best-Kept Secret," and the FREE ferry ride (for pedestrians) across the mighty Mississippi offers some of the best views of the city's unique skyline.
Old Algiers History
Old Algiers, nestled in the curve of the Mississippi River's west bank (which, incidentally, is more south than it is west of the rest of New Orleans!) was granted by the King of France to Jean Baptiste LeMoyne Sieur de Bienville, the city's founder. It was originally part of the "King's Plantation" that stretched along a long stretch of the river from Plaquemine to Donaldsonville (near Baton Rouge) and then to Natchez, Mississippi. Native Americans lived along the river banks before it was settled by the French.
For nearly a century and a half, the area served as the place where African slaves were held before they were sold into a lifetime of slavery. Some scholars argue that Old Algiers is actually the site of the origins of jazz. The slaves – frightened, sick, isolated from the families – quite likely used their tradition of "call and response" and single-line melodies to communicate and comfort themselves and their families; sounds that have influenced the jazz we hear today.
One of the attractions of Old Algiers is the Jazz Walk of Fame on top of the river levee, starting at the ferry landing with a statue of Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong. Lamp posts and benches recount the origins of jazz and the earliest pioneers of the genre who had their roots in New Orleans in the early 20th century.
For more information, please visit www.oldalgiersmainstreet.com or call (504) 362-8813.