#WanderlustWednesday | Let’s Talk the NOLA Tricentennial Celebration

The 300th anniversary of the founding of the city of New Orleans is upon us, and it’s already shaping up to be one heck of a celebration in a city that loves celebrations. To celebrate 300 years of rich history, diversity, cultural traditions and resilience, the City of New Orleans will celebrate 2018 like no other. To accomplish this, Mayor Mitchell Landrieu formed the 2018 NOLA Commission to allow input for events and programs that will honor the anniversary of the founding of New Orleans. A variety of special events, concerts, fireworks and completion of major infrastructure projects will take place in 2018.

If you’re thinking of traveling to New Orleans, this might be the year to do it. A calendar of events throughout the year can be found here.

The official tricentennial site offers up a fascinating summary of the history of this great city, which was founded in 1718:

Before the founding of the City, Native Americans of the Woodland and Mississippian cultures lived in the area that is now Greater New Orleans.  Explorers passed through in the 16th and 17th centuries, but it was not until 1718 that Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville founded New Orleans on high ground 100 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River.

The original City was centered around the Place d’Armes, which is now Jackson Square.  A hurricane destroyed most of the young City in 1722.  It was after this that the streets were laid out and rebuilt in a grid pattern, creating what we now call the French Quarter. The colonists who populated New Orleans in those early days contended with many adverse circumstances, such as illness, swamp land, and intermittent supplies. The colonists also brought with them the practice of slavery, and enslaved not only the local indigenous population, but also imported slaves from Africa.

The French ruled over the city until 1763, when they ceded the territory to the Spanish.  Another 40 years later, the French regained control of the colony in 1803, and shortly thereafter sold it to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase.

By the middle of the 19th century, New Orleans had grown to a population of 170,000, become the wealthiest city in the United States, and was a bustling port of strategic importance.  The city was also home to many free people of color, a business and property owning population, unique in the United States.

The twentieth century brought on a new era, notably in music. As the birthplace of early jazz in the 1900s, New Orleans became a cultural beacon throughout the United States as jazz music swept the nation in the next few decades. The city also expanded its footprint using new technology to drain swamps and wetlands. After World War II, the city became a tourist destination and remains so to this day, drawing millions for events such as Mardi Gras and the Jazz and Heritage Festival.

In 2005, the city was hit by Hurricane Katrina and federal levee failures devastated vast areas of the city with flooding. However, in the years that have passed since that event, the city has rebuilt and recovered, its culture and attractions more vibrant than ever. As the city approaches the Tricentennial, it celebrates the resilience and resourcefulness of its people.

Pat Barcas

Pat Barcas serves as staff writer and photographer for Festiva, based in Asheville, NC. In his spare time he enjoys photography, astronomy, hiking, hanging out with his family, and of course, traveling!

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