Festivals for You: Tremé Fall Fest

Treme Fall Fest
Image courtesy of the Historic Faubourg Tremé Association via Facebook

Dancing to brass bands in the Tremé, mere feet from the stone steps of a 175-year-old African American church, sounds like a scene from a cinematic idealization of New Orleans. But for the third year in a row, that pretty idea becomes concrete reality, as the Tremé Fall Festival throws a weekend-long party in the blocks connecting Henriette Delille, Tremé and Gov. Nicholls Streets – on the last weekend of September and first weekend of October (Sept. 29-Oct. 1), just as the weather is getting nice.

One of the nation’s first African American neighborhoods, the Tremé has faced some historically important changes in the years following Hurricane Katrina.

“With time everything changes,” Adolph Bynum told us last year. At the time, Bynum was one of the main organizers of the festival, colloquially known as Tremé Fall Fest. He considers the event, and its organizers – the Historic Faubourg Tremé Association – to be at the forefront of the fight to preserve the culture, music, food and architecture of the Tremé.

“These things help protect the historic properties and structures that tourists want to come see in this African American neighborhood, which at one time was known for its free people of color. We want to maintain that identity,” said Bynum.

Proceeds from last year’s Tremé Fall Fest benefited St. Augustine Church (1210 Governor Nicholls St) and other local non-profits that support local black culture, such as the NOLA African American Museum and the Backstreet Cultural Museum.

“Every Sunday at St. Augustine’s 10 o’clock jazz mass, 80 percent of the congregation are tourists from all over the world, international, coming to look at the third oldest church in the city of New Orleans for free people of color,” said Bynum.

In 2016, the Fall Fest honored Benny Jones, founder of the Tremé Brass Band, who in his own words has “been involved with the music and the culture of the Tremé neighborhood for many, many years.”

Jones and his Tremé Brass Band performed at the 2015 Tremé Fall Fest. “It was a great festival, especially for their first time. It was a great turnout,” said Jones, who still performs at neighborhood joints. “It’s also different because it’s a free festival, and you got plenty of free parking under Claiborne, or you can park at Armstrong and walk. It’s outdoors and the neighborhood people can sit on their porch and enjoy.”

The free festival begins on Saturday, Sep 29, with food and craft vendors, face painting, free health screenings, tours of St. Augustine Church, and of course, entertainment from New Orleans musical royalty. The Tremé Fall Festival closes out on Sunday. Oct 1, at St. Augustine Church; the closing of the fest typically features a gospel mass.

Jones has seen many changes in his beloved Tremé, and thinks Tremé Fall Fest is something the historically important neighborhood needs. “Some of my neighbors can’t afford the cost of the property here anymore, and the rent is high in Tremé,” said Jones. “But those people will still come back to the neighborhood for this festival, because they were born and raised in the Tremé.”

For more information go to the festival website.

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