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1993 Fair Grounds Grandstand Fire

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  • 1993 Fair Grounds Grandstand Fire

    I was speaking this evening to a newcomer to New Orleans, telling her about the devastating fire the claimed the original Fair Grounds grandstand in 1993, and I realized that some on this board may not know of this history. The Fair Grounds opened in 1872, and I think the grandstand dated to then. It was a beautiful old wooden structure, with giant wooden-framed, glass-paned doors separating the spectators from the elements, which could be opened or closed depending on the weather.

    My first Fest was 1988, and so for my first six years of Fest, through 1993, I experienced Fest underneath the old grandstand. When we arrived for Fest in 1994, however, the grandstands had been reduced to a burned out, mangled shell, the remnants of which were there for all of us to see. My recollection is that the restoration of the grandstands was completed by 1995's Fest, though I may be wrong about that.

    I tried to post pics of the old grandstand, the fire, the mangled wreckage, and the new grandstand, but I was not successful in doing so. Perhaps someone more tech savvy that I can do so.

  • #2
    Visit my Jazzfest advice site: http://jazzfest.swagland.com/

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Blumie View Post
      I was speaking this evening to a newcomer to New Orleans, telling her about the devastating fire the claimed the original Fair Grounds grandstand in 1993, and I realized that some on this board may not know of this history. The Fair Grounds opened in 1872, and I think the grandstand dated to then. It was a beautiful old wooden structure, with giant wooden-framed, glass-paned doors separating the spectators from the elements, which could be opened or closed depending on the weather.

      My first Fest was 1988, and so for my first six years of Fest, through 1993, I experienced Fest underneath the old grandstand. When we arrived for Fest in 1994, however, the grandstands had been reduced to a burned out, mangled shell, the remnants of which were there for all of us to see. My recollection is that the restoration of the grandstands was completed by 1995's Fest, though I may be wrong about that.

      I tried to post pics of the old grandstand, the fire, the mangled wreckage, and the new grandstand, but I was not successful in doing so. Perhaps someone more tech savvy that I can do so.
      I attended a couple of fests before the fire. If my memory serves me (and it doesn't as much these days), the grandstand doesn't quite date all the way back, but it was moved there from a track (in City Park, I think).

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      • #4
        It was during those years, before putting up the new grandstand that, for the first time, JF had tents that weren't in the infield. I seem to recall. Before that, if memory serves, everything including all stages and port a lets were inside the track. After the grandstand was rebuilt, JF expanded to the whole facility, moving Blues, and Jazz and Gospel across track. Or, something close to that time line.

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        • #5
          I guess I saw the old 2 years before it burned. I remember the mess in '94 more than I can picture the old grandatand. Speaking of grandstanding, now that Quint..........

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          • #6
            I went to a horse race there around 1985. I remember the grandstands were rough and some shady character tried to sell me some green.

            Googling indicates that the wooden grandstand was moved in the early 1900s and was what burned in 1993. I have a memory that I'm now questioning that there was significant new structure built just before the fire and that was lost too. Am I wrong?

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Headless Hornman View Post
              I went to a horse race there around 1985. I remember the grandstands were rough and some shady character tried to sell me some green.

              Googling indicates that the wooden grandstand was moved in the early 1900s and was what burned in 1993. I have a memory that I'm now questioning that there was significant new structure built just before the fire and that was lost too. Am I wrong?
              I don't recall there being any new stuff right before the fire. The new grandstand is significantly better, although I lost my secret bathroom in the fire.

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              • #8
                First Jazz Fests were 92 and 93. Don't even remember Grandstands. Lol...

                Didn't notice new one when I went back in 2001. Too busy looking at bands and babes.

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                • #9
                  I have some photos that I took that year of the stands (and I think at least one of a band with the stands behind them)but no idea how to put them up here. It was strange looking at it that year all burnt up.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by kyfester View Post
                    It was during those years, before putting up the new grandstand that, for the first time, JF had tents that weren't in the infield. I seem to recall. Before that, if memory serves, everything including all stages and port a lets were inside the track. After the grandstand was rebuilt, JF expanded to the whole facility, moving Blues, and Jazz and Gospel across track. Or, something close to that time line.
                    I miss The HOB Blues Stage. I've never been a fan of The Blues Tent. It gets too crowded and the sound is not always that great.

                    I remember trying to see Herbie Hancock in the muddy and humid old Jazz Tent on the other side by I believe what is now Congo Square or somewhere over there.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by jjazznj View Post

                      I miss The HOB Blues Stage. I've never been a fan of The Blues Tent. It gets too crowded and the sound is not always that great.

                      I remember trying to see Herbie Hancock in the muddy and humid old Jazz Tent on the other side by I believe what is now Congo Square or somewhere over there.
                      Yes Jazz Tent was indeed tucked in along back stretch between a significantly smaller Congo Square stage and another one maybe. Gospel Tent was in space where the Acura tent is now, behind the big stage, then Fess Stage, later Ray Ban, or so I believe I recall.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by kyfester View Post

                        Yes Jazz Tent was indeed tucked in along back stretch between a significantly smaller Congo Square stage and another one maybe. Gospel Tent was in space where the Acura tent is now, behind the big stage, then Fess Stage, later Ray Ban, or so I believe I recall.
                        I tried finding an old map but gave up. I remember that old jazz tent being a muddy mess more than once.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by jjazznj View Post

                          I tried finding an old map but gave up. I remember that old jazz tent being a muddy mess more than once.
                          The place was a muddy mess whenever it rained even a little bit. Race tracks are configured so all water drains into the infield off the track. Or so my horse guys advise me. At some point the Fairgrounds improved the drainage because JF was getting so popular. As those of us who have to been to few Fests well know, it can still get mighty muddy. I always pack my Duck Shoes. But still nothing like the old days.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by kyfester View Post

                            The place was a muddy mess whenever it rained even a little bit. Race tracks are configured so all water drains into the infield off the track. Or so my horse guys advise me. At some point the Fairgrounds improved the drainage because JF was getting so popular. As those of us who have to been to few Fests well know, it can still get mighty muddy. I always pack my Duck Shoes. But still nothing like the old days.
                            Are horses allowed to pee upon a race track or is that disallowed?

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by jjazznj View Post

                              I tried finding an old map but gave up. I remember that old jazz tent being a muddy mess more than once.
                              Jazz tent was between Congo and Blues stages in early nineties. And it did get wet. Epic thunderstorm during legendary back to back to back Jimmy Smith, Horace Silver, Tito Puente sets.
                              Also one time Rebirth was in that jazz tent. ridiculous Thunderstorm came and they marched off stage due to lightning still playing. folks were standing on the chairs screaming.

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