Illustration by Jose Santana Firpo

Long Story Short: Queen for a Day

“May I take a photo of your crown?” I stood there awkwardly, in my day suit, balancing a mimosa in one hand and my phone in another. “Your crown is the most amazing I’ve seen today.” I was nervous that I had overstepped my bounds—like approaching a celebrity at a restaurant—but the sweet girl burst into a smile so bright it lit up the room, only oversparkled by her sky-high tiara bejeweled with intricate designs of citrus. Pose, smile, snap.

And that’s how I got a photo of the foot-tall bejeweled crown worn by the Plaquemines Parish Orange Festival Queen. This young woman was a queen among many that day, so to say that her mega-crown was the mostest is to say something. This was a few years back and we were at the King’s Luncheon event leading up to the Washington Mardi Gras Ball, and the room was filled with everyone from lobbyists to socialites to the Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum Queen from Morgan City. Heavy crown featuring an oil rig on top, smile in place.

Stating the obvious here: Only in Louisiana.

If our national shutdown has done anything, it’s shown us how much socializing is actually intrinsic to who we are as Louisianans. Staying away from people in Fargo, North Dakota, might not be so much of a stretch, but (dang it!) it’s festival season in Louisiana. Now should be the time to saunter through the streets of Ponchatoula, deep-fried strawberry in one hand and a strawberry smoothie in another. Or we should be eating a crawdog at the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival before taking Cajun dancing lessons. 

We should be at Jazz Fest listening to an amazing band on one of the signature stages before grabbing some Crawfish Monica and ducking into the Gospel Tent to catch the spirit and find solace from the sun. As I considered the indignity of it all, it occurred to me: My favorite Louisiana festival—Jazz Fest—does not have a queen. 

Naturally, I have a solution. But first, a story:

A few years ago, one of my favorite country/bluegrass/folk groups—Old Crow Medicine Show— took to the Gentilly Stage at Jazz Fest, and they were about two songs in before I realized that something was amiss. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a front-row kind of gal. But at this event, there was a fence between me and a slab of people separating me from the stage and the main musician, Ketch Secor. I love Ketch Secor.

Something was wrong.

“That’s the VIP section,” my husband explained, waving to the bodies in front of me in a dismissive way. Who knew there would be a VIP section? Why am I not in the VIP section? These people don’t even appreciate Ketch. They don’t know him! “We didn’t pay to be in the VIP section,” he countered to my battery of questions.

My cry of “Why not?!?” was lost among Ketch’s wail on the harmonica while playing the fiddle to the roar of the crowd, mainly the ignoramuses in the VIP section.

I was desperate.

I looked to my left and saw a tree that could block what I was about to do. My plan? To say I was with the band. I eyed my husband intensely and realized this was where we part.

“Spot me,” I said, like a person about to go into battle. “I’m going over.”

Let’s just say the next few minutes played out like a stupid scene in a sitcom which ended in me practically being horse collared as I attempted to jump the fence. I ultimately had to swallow my pride and pretend that the fence to the VIP section was actually the stage itself. Ketch and crew kept singing. I pulled myself together and kept singing. 

Which leads me to my solution. No Rice Queen from Crowley can claim to love rice as much as I love live music. So, even given my advanced age, I should be the ambassador for Jazz Fest.

I deserve the crown. I promise to take my queendom seriously, and to represent Louisiana musicians wherever I go. I’ll wear the sash. I’ll pose and smile.

And, if things go off the rails, I’ll relinquish my title like Harry and Meghan. That went well. And I’ll just fall back on Plan A: “I’m with the band.”