Scoot: Why it’s wrong to stay away from the French Quarter!

April 12, 2018 - 10:41 am

New Orleans is a “festival town,” and today is the opening day of the annual French Quarter Fest in the French Quarter.  Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, Millennials, families with small children and every demographic in between will be part of the festival this weekend. 

Tens of thousands of people will flock into different areas of the French Quarter to experience the local music and cuisine in a gathering of diversity that defines New Orleans. 

The French Quarter Festival began in 1984 as a reason to encourage locals to come back to the Quarter after an extended period of disruption due to street and sidewalk construction.  That simple beginning has become a tradition that is now in its 35th year, and it’s bigger and better than ever.

The French Quarter Festival is known as “The Largest Free Music Festival in the United States!”  It is free, and local cuisine from local restaurants is featured throughout the festival at $3 to $5.  The Fest offers the chance to literally taste New Orleans and south Louisiana.

The people from the New Orleans area, the Gulf Coast region and from around the country and the world who will be enjoying the French Quarter Fest this weekend defy the fear that has grown around high-profile criminal acts in and around the Quarter.  That fear, shared by some locals, is irrational.

The French Quarter is the most popular spot in the South, and one of the most popular spots in the world.  When a crime happens there, the incident is exaggerated because it happened in a place where people go to have a good time.  Many of the crimes that attract talk and media attention are not random and are confrontations between people who know each other.  The crimes often involve drug deals.  The threat to the average person going to the French Quarter is too insignificant to cause a reluctance to visit.

The adamant stance some locals take against going to the French Quarter is also politically-driven.  The mantra, “I will never bring my family to the French Quarter” comes from some who believe they are taking a stand against crime and the local government they believe is not solving the problem.  But a blockade of the French Quarter is not founded in reality; it’s founded more in hysteria.

The massive number of people that enjoy the French Quarter every day and every night reduces the few crimes that occur to isolated incidents that amount to an insignificant threat to individuals and families interested in experiencing the Quarter. 

When a plane crashes, it attracts media attention that is disproportionate to the percentage of people killed or injured relative to the number of people traveling that day.  People do not stop flying because of the media attention given to the spectacle of a plane crash.  To put that in perspective, the most dangerous part of flying is driving to the airport; but people never give a second thought to getting in their car, even though statistics clearly show that they are much more likely to be killed driving to the airport than is a plane crash.

And so it is with the French Quarter.  The crimes that occur there reflect only a superficial perception that the area is not safe.  As a resident of downtown New Orleans living two blocks from the French Quarter, I consider the French Quarter part of my neighborhood, and I spend a lot of time there.  I am vigilant and always aware of where I should and should not be at different times.  There are areas of the French Quarter that are dangerous during certain hours, but the characterization of the whole French Quarter as dangerous is misleading.

The history and the ambiance of the French Quarter offers so much to so many people, even young children.  Exposure to the Old World architecture and the visual reinforcement of the diversity are priceless factors that inspire and guide the human spirit.  To rob oneself, or one’s family, of such richness is tragic.  Particularly sad is the fact that people, including many families, come from across the country and around the world to experience the sights, sounds and the tastes of the French Quarter; yet some locals will not take a short drive to enjoy such a special place in their own backyard.

For those who have been reluctant to spend time in the French Quarter - I remind you that statistically the most dangerous part of going to the Quarter is getting in your car and driving there!

Happy French Quarter Fest 2018!

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