Irma Thomas

French Quarter Festival kicks off with food, music, culture

Louisiana's spring festival season kicks off Thursday with what has been called the largest free showcase of Louisiana music, food and culture in the world: the French Quarter Festival.

The festival, which is held on dozens of stages located throughout the historic New Orleans neighborhood, was started to support that neighborhood's businesses during World's Fair street construction in 1983. The 35th edition includes more than 300 acts scheduled to perform through Sunday, including debut performances by Cajun singer and songwriter Zachary Richard (REE-shard), Chocolate Milk, the Sweet Olive String Band and Cyril Neville's Swamp Funk Band.

Returning favorites include Cyril...