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1970 Jazz Fest on film

If it's April, it must be ... Jazz Fest, right?

But today's event is a far cry from that first fest back in 1970. More than half a million people are expected to hit the Fairgrounds for this year's event,while a mere 350 turned out for the first one.

Mahalia Jacfson at the 1970 Jazz Fest

Mahalia Jackson at the 1970 Jazz Fest

The staggering amount of talent on stage hasn't changed as much. In that first year, performers included Mahalia Jackson, Duke Ellington, Pete Fountain, Al Hirt, Clifton Chenier, Fats Domino, The Meters, Danny Barker and The Preservation Hall Band, as well as parades every day with The Olympia Brass Band and Mardi Gras Indians.

Luckily, you can still catch that first fest on film.

Don Perry, one of the founders of the New Orleans Jazz Club and a former WDSU cameraman, filmed the first festival in 1970 and donated the reels in 1978 to the Louisiana State Museum (LSM). Through funding from the National Film Preservation Foundation, the LSM digitized the films in 2012, allowing them to be preserved for generations of Jazz Fest, film and music fans.

The 1970 Jazz Fest Movies will be screened at 6 p.m. and again at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, April 17, at the Old U.S. Mint, in the third-floor performance space. Dr. Charles Chamberlain will moderate the event and the Band-In-A-Pocket Jazz Trio will be performing in sections that do not have sound. Tickets are a $20 donation to the Friends of the Cabildo ($15 for Friends of the Cabildo/Louisiana Museum Foundation). There will be a cash bar for drinks and reservations are limited.

To reserve your space, contact Kaydee Nenninger at the Friends of the Cabildo Office (504) 523-3939, or purchase here.

Renee Peck is editor of NolaVie. Email her at [email protected]