What would have been the first-ever fall version of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival won’t happen after all, as authorities called off the 2021 Jazz Fest due to surging COVID case rates in Louisiana. The annual event was called off in 2020 during the initial COVID wave of cancellations, but organizers had hoped that by the planned October dates for 2021, crowds would be able to gather freely. Things were looking good as recently as early summer, but the rapid spread of the “delta” variant has led to a huge rise in both cases and hospitalizations, which caused organizers to once again pull the plug on the annual celebration of New Orleans music and culture.
“As a result of the current exponential growth of new COVID cases in New Orleans and the region and the ongoing public health emergency, we must sadly announce that the 2021 edition of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell, scheduled to take place October 8-17, 2021, will not occur as planned,” reads the announcement of the decision, posted to Twitter on Sunday afternoon. “We now look forward to next spring, when we will present the Festival during its traditional timeframe. Next year’s dates are April 29-May 8, 2022.”
Tickets will once again be allowed to be rolled over into the 2022 event, including those that had already been rolled over once from 2020. Those who purchased directly from the festival organizers on the primary market will be contacted directly with instructions on that process, as well as any other options they may have. Those who purchased tickets for the festival through secondary markets should contact their point of purchase to determine their options.
The decision to spike the festival must have come quickly, given how recently tickets for one major peice of the festival – a performance by the Rolling Stones – went on sale. Announced in late July when the English rock legends announced dates for a planned resumption of their U.S. tour in the fall, GA and VIP tickets for Jazz Fest just became available beginning July 30 – little more than a week before the whole event was called off. According to the Louisiana Department of Health, every parish in the state is in the red “highest” risk tier, with 2,421 patients hospitalized with COVID – more than at any other point in the pandemic. The state’s 7-day average of new cases has risen from 275 on July 1 to 3,552 – with many regions at very low available ICU space.
Still, the calling off of the enormously popular and important event is another blow to the live event industry and area economy, which hasn’t seen Jazz Fest staged since 2019 after the event had never taken a single year off in its first 50 of existence.
“It’s a huge disappointment for everyone, not only locaks but for the tourist industry, for travelers looking forward to Jazz Fest, and for the evonomy and our employees,” says Mavis Early, Executive Director of the Greater New Orleans Hotel & Lodging Association. “Plenty of our hotels were already fully booked for Jazz Fest two weeks ago.”