More than 460,000 people passed through the gates of the 2023 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the festival's producers announced Thursday.
Despite consistently large crowds at the festival's main stages, that figure represents a decrease from 2022's announced total of 475,000.
The total number released by the festival counts not only paid attendees, but also complimentary tickets, vendors, staffers and anyone else who is scanned upon entering the grounds.
The 2022 total was the same as 2019, the last Jazz Fest before the pandemic canceled the 2020 and 2021 festivals.
In 2022, dense crowds filled the main Festival Stage field for the Red Hot Chili Peppers on the first Sunday and Stevie Nicks on the second Saturday. Nicks' crowd spilled onto the dirt track.
No main stage crowd in 2023 felt as big as Nicks'. But this year's festival experienced one of the largest opening Fridays in its modern history, with Lizzo filling the main Festival Stage field at the same time Robert Plant and Alison Krauss packed the Shell Gentilly Stage field.
The Wu-Tang Clan with the Soul Rebels played to a big crowd at Congo Square that day, a day on which the rollout of the festival's new cashless payment system, coupled with the larger than expected Friday crowd, triggered long waits at food and drink booths.
Rainy weather on the first Saturday knocked back attendance despite the popularity of headliner Ed Sheeran.
Crowds returned on the first Sunday when Jill Scott's audience overflowed the Congo Square field and Kenny Loggins filled the Gentilly field as part of his farewell tour.
This year's "Locals Thursday," a day on which Louisiana residents could buy tickets for $50, also seemed especially busy, with back-to-back guitar legends Buddy Guy and Carlos Santana playing to a full field.
Homegrown talent Jon Batiste, despite having little track record as a touring artist, held a large crowd rapt with an epic performance as the second Friday's main stage headliner.
Rain returned on the morning of the second Saturday, forcing the festival's producers to delay the opening of the gates until 12:15 p.m. and cancel the day's first act on each stage.
Despite the heavy downpours early and intermittent rain throughout the early afternoon, Deadheads turned out in droves for Dead & Company, the Lumineers' crowd overflowed the Gentilly field and H.E.R. rocked a sizeable crowd at Congo Square.
The 2023 festival's final Sunday also seemed like a big day, as large numbers of attendees filled the Fair Grounds infield. Mumford & Sons, featuring special appearances by Batiste and Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, performed for a crowd that stretched all the way to the distant dirt track.
Much of that crowd stayed put for Trombone Shorty's closing set, which also featured a guest turn by Batiste. Maze featuring Frankie Beverly closed out Congo Square to a large crowd.
The 475,000 figure in 2019 and 2022 is the highest total attendance for Jazz Fest since Hurricane Katrina.
The highest attendance in Jazz Fest's history was in 2001. An estimated total of 650,000 fans passed through the gates during the seven days of the festival.
In 2006, the first Jazz Fest after Katrina drew 350,000 fans, even as the city was still heavily damaged from the storm. Crowds ticked steadily upward to reach 460,000 in 2015. Heavy downpours the next two years knocked attendance back down to 425,000.
In 2018, attendance climbed to approximately 450,000, then increased again in 2019 and 2022.
The 2024 Jazz Fest is set for April 26 to May 5.