by Anitra D. Brown
For the second year in a row, the Historic Faubourg Tremé Association will present the Tremé Festival, beginning with the patron party at 6 p.m. Sept. 30, at the George and Joyce Wein Jazz & Heritage Center, 1225 N Rampart St. The actual festival will be held from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, on Tremé Street between Ursulines Avenue and Barracks Street. Then at 10 a.m. Oct. 2, St. Augustine Church will celebrate 175 years at its weekly mass, officiated by Archbishop Rev. Gregory Aymond.
The Tremé Festival was developed by the HFTA to benefit the many cultural destinations found with the historic community of Tremé, chiefly the St. Augustine Church.
Last year, the festival raised $25,000, says co-chairman Adolph Bynum, adding that proceeds from the 2015 festival were used to paint the church exterior and perform other needed repairs including removing, restoring and reinstalling the rusted iron grill around the church.
The church is still in need of major work estimated at $1.7 million, festival organizers say, adding that the HFTA plans to use proceeds from the 2016 event continue to work on St. Augustine as well as to offer mini-grants to help refurbish other cultural landmarks in Tremé and to gain the funding needed to reinvest in the Tremé Festival in order to sustain the event.
Wear and tear notwithstanding, St. Augustine Church has a rich history. It was dedicated on October 9, 1842. Free people of color bought more pews for their families than any other contributors. They bought all the pews on both side aisles. The side-aisle pews were given to slaves, who were welcomed to worship there, a first in the history of slavery in America. The mixture of pews resulted in the most integrated congregation in the United States. Shortly after the church was dedicated, Henriette Delille, a free woman of color, and Juliette Gaudin, a Cuban, knelt publicly at the alter and pledged to work for orphan girls, the uneducated, the poor, the sick, and the elderly among free people of color, starting the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family, the second-oldest order of African-American nuns in America. Also, a number of historical figures were members of the church, including Homer Plessy, of the famous U.S. Supreme Court case Plessy vs. Ferguson, and Alexander P. Tureaud, Sr., a giant among the civil rights attorneys of the 1960s.
As plans and preparation for the second festival are underway, Bynum, who co-chairs Tremé Festival his wife Njayda, says the event has been a success.
Last year’s festival featured Kermit Ruffins, James Andrews, John Boutte, the Tremé Brass Band and others. It also served as an economic stimulus for the community, creating paid festival jobs, vendor opportunities and youth apprenticeships. Plans for this year’s entertainment include an all-star Tremé Jazz group, Bynum says.
“The festival has brought notoriety and a renewed interest in Tremé,” he says. “Tourism in the neighborhood is big.”
While the HFTA is the festival’s producer, the organization has garnered support from a number of sponsors, including Reily Foods Company, New Orleans Tourism Marketing Group, Liberty Bank, Rhodes Family of Businesses, Richard Disposal, First NBC Bank, Charbonnet Family Services, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, Prime Example Jazz Club and more.
“We have also gotten a lot of great support from New Orleans city council members,” Bynum says.
Meanwhile, other companies, including Home Depot and Behr Paint have made in-kind donations to help with refurbishment of the church, he adds.
Tickets for the patron party are $100 and sponsorship opportunities are still available. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 504-500-1903. The festival is free and open to the public.