By Bill Parry
The first annual New Orleans jazz and food festival took place on Skillman Ave. on Saturday, despite Friday night’s blizzard dumping a foot of snow on the neighborhood.
Members of The Skillman Project, an association of Skillman Ave. bar and restaurant owners, staged a Sunnyside Mardi Gras and at no time did they consider canceling it.
“We gave it no thought whatsoever,” said Pat Tunney, the owner of the Kettle, located at 50-24 Skillman Ave. “[Mardi Gras] is the perfect cure for cabin fever.”
Justin Costello, the co-owner of Claret Wine Bar (46-02 Skillman Ave), said that there were no plans to postpone the event, which went from 3:30pm until late that evening. Costello’s fiancee, Lucy Carson, said, “What are people going to do, sit home and watch the snowplows?”
Nevertheless, turnout was light during the first hour at The Dog and the Duck (45-20 Skillman), where revelers were required to register to receive a wristband entitling them to ½ price beer specials at any of the nine participating bars and restaurants between 46th and 52nd Streets.
However, by 5pm, there was a line out the door at the Dog and the Duck and a buzz was in the air. Over the course of the evening more than 300 people registered. To register, attendees had to donate $5 or bring canned food for the local food pantry.
The party shifted into full swing when Ray’s Brass Band, which played Dixieland jazz, at 5:30 pm.
The band performed a set in each venue. Its version of When the Saints Go Marching In led to sing-alongs, especially at Claret (where Hurricanes, a potent New Orleans brew, was the drink special of the day).
“I knew the crowd would show up,” said Paul Flynn, the owner of Flynn’s Garden Inn, located at 46-08 Skillman Ave. “[Blizzard] Nemo didn’t scare anyone here.”
It took a while for the party to reach the upper end of Skillman Ave.
Democratic district leader John Smyth sat in The Kettle with a group of friends and family, waiting for the Mardi Gras’ arrival. “It’s quiet now,” said Smyth, at about 7pm. However, “you can tell the crowd’s working its way up the hill.”
To see several photos of the event, please click here.