Festival Season in Full Swing

Three weekends at home and a festival for each. New Orleans is always buzzing, and summer means festivals. Food, crafts and music draw both locals and tourists.

Memorial Day weekend is home to the New Orelans Greek Festival every year. 2013 was the fest’s 40 anniversary and the first year I participated in their annual 5k. Grape leaves, gyros, spanakopita and baklava sundaes were just some of the traditional foods served and eaten at the festival. Rachel and I probably ate whatever we burned in the race, but it was totally worth it. Hot and humid is just part of the deal for summer in south Louisiana, and Greek Fest wasn’t an exception. I was happy I ran, so I had an excuse to look less than stunning.

New Orleans Oyster Festival was the next weekend at Woldenberg Park on the Mississippi River.  It was the festival’s fifth year and my second year attending. I ate my first oyster there last year, and understood the addiction. Raw, charbroiled or fried, New Orleans restaurants pulled out all the stops creating original oyster dishes. Andrea’s oyster ravioli and Bourbon House’s barbecue oyster poboy were my two favorites this year. Since it’s so close to the quarter, and we were desperate for air conditioning after two hours outside, downtown shopping was another perk of the weekend. Although, trying on clothes after all of that food might not have been our best idea.

The Creole Tomato and Cajun-Zydeco Festivals take place side by side in the French Market and the Old Mint downtown. Fried Green Tomatoes were a must, but the creole tomato lemonade was the most surprising, and delicious, treat of the weekend. After eating our way through the French Market, we made our way to the Mint to listen to Bruce Daigrepont and find some shade.

Sophomore Year

The past year has been an absolute whirlwind, but it’s been such a happy blur.

Living in the Alpha Chi Omega house has been an integral part of this year. When am I ever going to get the opportunity to live in a house with 72 other girls or 4 other roommates? These girls have become some of the best friends I’ve ever had, and I can’t believe I’ve only known them for two years. I love the random conversations about everything and nothing at all more than the big events. Obviously giant functions are fun, but I’ve never laughed harder than I have on the countless nights we stayed up way too late watching movies and talking instead of studying. I would not have grown as much as I have this year without these girls pushing me beyond my limits and encouraging me to better myself. I am a better person today than I was when I moved in nine months ago.

This was also the first time I got a real taste of what it’ll mean to be a broadcast major. I worked at KOMU last year and did some video shooting and editing, but being about to see a project from start to finish is an amazing opportunity. I know I can conduct interviews and figure out how it’ll all work into a 1:30 package as a sophomore…and that’s insane. I know I sometimes take the “Mizzou method” for granted thinking that everyone gets these opportunities, but realizing how much more I know now than seniors I interned with last summer knew, I am so thankful. While it maybe overwhelming sometimes, I am so lucky to Mizzou journalism student.

Curtain Closes on Smash

NBC’s musical theatre drama “Smash” has officially been cancelled for next season. The Huffington Post has an article with reactions from the cast on Twitter.

While I love the show, I end up watching it on their NBC website than during primetime, and low ratings were a primary reason for it’s cancellation. While I’m not caught up on season 2 yet, I’ve heard there were choices in the more recent episodes that many fans didn’t like. I thought the show held a lot of promise, and liked it better than Glee because it wasn’t quite as contrived or autotuned. So many members of the cast were Broadway veterans and are just incredible talented. I saw “9 to 5: The Musical” in 2009, and while I didn’t love the show, Megan Hilty was phenomenal. She has stage presence that literally lights up and controls a room and an incredible voice. I’ve loved her ever since.

I also like that it was a more accessible way for the general public to experience musical theatre. It’s cheaper and easier than going to see a show in New York or even locally, so I hoped people would jump and the chance. Maybe the next musical show will fair better.

Amanda LaBrot takes a picture with Megan Hilty outside of the "9 to 5: The Musical" stage door in September 2009.

Amanda LaBrot takes a picture with Megan Hilty outside of the “9 to 5: The Musical” stage door in September 2009.

2013 Tony Nominiations

Nominations for the 67 annual Tony Awards were announced Tuesday, April 30, 2013 with Kinky Boots the Musical leading the pack with 13 nominations. Close behind, with 12 nominations, was Matilda The Musical which opened on the West End in 2010 before moving to Broadway this season.

The most interesting thing, to me at least, about the nominees this year is the number of first time and unknown artists recognized. Obviously musicals nominated each year are new, but they’ll often have huge names in the cast or creative team. While some, like Kinky Boots, do involve Broadway veterans, Bring It On and A Christmas Story featured young actors and creative teams. Taylor Louderman, who starred as Campbell in Bring It On, was a senior at the University of Michigan while performing on Broadway. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, nominated for best original score for A Christmas Story, graduated from UMich in 2006. There must be something in the water…

I just enjoy seeing so many young performers and artists becoming successful in such a tough business. It can take years to even become a member of Actor’s Equity Association, the union that represents all Broadway performers and is required for all members of Broadway companies. In 2008, Lin Manuel Miranda and the cast of In the Heights took home the Tony for best musical. It was an unlikely show with lots of unknown talent. We saw it the following November, and I fell in love. And he’ll be back at the awards this year as the composer and lyricist of Bring It On. I love seeing artists progress, and being able to keep up with it on twitter. I think Broadway has really embraced and learned to use social media to their advantage, and I know I’m enjoying it.

Lin Manuel Miranda poses with his 2008 Best Musical Tony Award in the lobby of the Richard Rodgers Theatre with Amamnda LaBrot in November 2008.

Lin Manuel Miranda poses with his 2008 Best Musical Tony Award in the lobby of the Richard Rodgers Theatre with Amamnda LaBrot in November 2008.

Festin’ and Digestin’

This weekend kicks off the 2013 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, known to locals simply as Jazz Fest. The seven day festival is split between April 27-29 and May 2-5.

Known for it’s extensive music lineup, the festival brings headliners Billy Joel, Maroon 5, John Mayer and Fleetwood Mac, just to name a few,  to the New Orleans Fair Grounds this year. Not to mention notable jazz greats like Pete Fountain and The Preservation Hall Jazz Band. The festival is also an opportunity for popular local artists, like Trombone Shorty and Amanda Shaw, and New Orleans high school jazz bands to perform for tourists from across the country.

Jazz Fest is more than just music, it’s an excuse to eat some of the best food South Louisiana has to offer. Fried eggplant, crawfish bread and bread pudding with any sauce you can imagine keep the festival goers full as they move from concert to concert and check out the local vendors. Crafts, clothes, jewelry and even housewares are sold by craftspeople from all over the United States. Many come back every year for the experience more than the sales.

Jazz Fest is an all day event. Families and friends get to the grounds at 11 am when the gates open and often stay until the headliner finishes at about 7 pm. If you’re like me, this is exciting because you get at least two meals and can choose from almost 100 concerts. I  went for the last time in 2011 to see Jason Mraz, but found out I really like Amos Lee too. Jazz Fest is an experience more than anything else. Just go with the flow and you’re bound to have fun.

Clearly I took this video before I came to Mizzou and understood the importance of a tripod, but here’s Jason Mraz singing “Butterfly.”

Greek Week Canned Food Drive

While collecting cans during April is nothing new for MU’s Greek community, but this year over 15,000 cans are staying within the Mizzou community. Tiger Pantry, a food bank that provides for Mizzou students, is this year’s beneficiary.

“It’s really cool to kind of stay involved in the Mizzou community because I think that that’s what Greek Week is all about,” said Kathryn Jankowski, director of Greek Week service.

Jankowski said she is excited about donating to Tiger pantry because it’s an opportunity to show off the  Greek community to both the Columbia and Mizzou Community that is not Greek.

“It’s not just about celebrating ourselves, it’s about showing off why what we do is important,” said Jankowski.

Typically, the cans are created into CANstructions, but  with rain in the forecast, today’s event was cancelled.

“It’s a bummer because we thought the weather was going to be bad, and the weather turns out to be fine,” said Jankowski. “So the food bank is just going to come by and pick up the food we’ve been counting all morning.”

The cans will go to the Central Missouri Food Bank where they will distribute it to Tiger Pantry and some other local organizations.

Members of Mizzou's Greek community help count and sort over 15,000 cans collected during this year's Greek Week on Wednesday, April, 17, 2013.

Members of Mizzou’s Greek community help count and sort cans collected during this year’s Greek Week on Wednesday, April, 17, 2013.

Over 15,000 cans were collected this year, including everything from peanut butter to vegetables.

Over 15,000 cans were collected this year, including everything from peanut butter to vegetables. Cans were sorted on Tiger Plaza Wednesday, April 17, 2013.

The Newseum

Over spring break, my family and I visited DC for the first time. Along with all of the classic tourist sites like the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II monument, I wanted to go to the Newseum. My parents hadn’t ever heard of it, but a few of my friends told me it was definitely worth seeing since I like journalism.

We started with the Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery. I’d seen a few of the photos in previous journalism classes, but after taking photos for my multimedia journalism class, I have a newfound appreciation for both the photos and the photographers. They are not only experts with the technology, but these photographers have the ability to capture an event that is evocative and real. My mom saw photos from the Oklahoma City bombing and started tearing up. I admire they’re ability to relay emotion so effectively.

I didn’t know the museum contained so many artifacts. I’m not exactly sure what I expected to see there, but it definitely wasn’t sections of the Berlin Wall and Katrina-damaged TV monitors. Seeing these pieces of history really help put the stories into context. From a mock-up of Tim Russert’s office to vehicles damaged during international reporting, the Newseum displays the many different careers journalists can have. The journalists’ memorial was almost surreal. After walking through international equipment, it was very humbling to see a wall of people who died for journalism. Everyone in the room was speaking quietly, and seemed to pay respect as they read about the journalist’s lives. That exhibit and the September 11 exhibit were the most solemn and powerful. An entire wall is covered with newspaper front pages from across the country alongside the pictures and equipment of a photojournalist who died documenting the tragedy. I was only in third grade when it happened, so seeing the coverage brought up some new perspectives for me.  I think it’s so admirable that this museum it highlighting the importance of journalism when the media is changing so much and trust  in journalists if  lower than it used to be.

Photo of the West Berlin Wall at the Newseum on Thursday, March 28, 2013.

Photo of the West Berlin Wall at the Newseum on Thursday, March 28, 2013.

Outside of teh Newseum entrance, the museum displays the day's front pages from every state.

Outside of teh Newseum entrance, the museum displays the day’s front pages from every state.

A replica of the late Time Russert's Meet the Press office wall.

A replica of the late Time Russert’s Meet the Press office wall.

Hurricane Katrina damaged TV monitor and cell phone from New Orleans NBC affiliate WDSU.

Hurricane Katrina damaged TV monitor and cell phone from New Orleans NBC affiliate WDSU.

Jeremy Maclin Charity Weekend

This weekend I shot video for my final project for my journalism at the Jeremy Maclin Foundation‘s charity weekend held in Columbia. This was the first time Macling held the camp at his alma mater, and invited about 20 other former tigers to help lead the event.

The weekend started Friday afternoon with a trip to Boys and Girls Club of Columbia. Maclin presented a $2,000 check and signed autographs before making a second appearance at Ronald McDonald House. Many of the other NFL players, like Sean Weatherspoon and Ziggy Hood stayed to play with kinds at Boys and Girls Club. Foursquare, basketball, and chalk drawing were popular activities for both players and kids. The players seemed to really enjoy interacting with the children and each other, and looked like they were having at least as much, is not more, fun playing and joking outside. The common theme throughout my interviews was the importance of giving back to a community that gave them so much. Columbia and Mizzou football launched these players’ NFL careers.

Football camp was held Saturday morning at the Mizzou Athletic Training Center on the football practice fields. The day began with rotations of different skill tests coached by NFL players. Participants were divided into age groups and began running drills. There was definitely fun atmosphere, but the players emphasized the importance of teaching proper techniques. After a successful circuit, participants was encouraged to spike the ball and do a touch down dance. Success was rewarded with fun. From being chased and picked up to being tackled and doing push ups, the children truly received individualized attention. After all groups had gone through the rotation, the boys split up into groups based on position for more specific drills. The day ended with players signing autographs and taking pictures.

Former Mizzou football players take a group photo with children from the Columbia, Mo. Boys and Girls Club Friday, April 5, 2013.

Former Mizzou football players take a group photo with children from the Columbia, Mo. Boys and Girls Club Friday, April 5, 2013.


Sean Weatherspoon, linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons, coaches drills Saturday morning, April 6, at Jeremy Maclin’s football clinic.


Jeremy Maclin’s Philadelphia Eagles jersey is on display in the Mizzou Athletic Training Facility mezzanine atrium.

Snoball Season

Snoballs are only in season in New Orleans when it’s over 60 degrees. A summer staple, snoball stands are packed starting in late spring until they close for winter around November.

Not to be confused with northern snow cones, snoballs aren’t shaved ice that’s been refrozen. It’s shaved, brought to a point with a funnel, and then covered in colorful, sugary, flavored syrup. There are standard flavors, but specific snoball stands have their own concoctions. And everyone has their staple snoball stand. Three of the most popular stands are Hansen’s Sn0-Bliz (just Hansen’s to most people), open since 1939,  Sal’s Sno-Balls, which opened in 1960 and Plum Street Snoballs, open since 1945.  The stands have their signatures, like Plum Street serving snoballs in traditional pails, which are Chinese take-out boxes, and Sal’s stuffed snoballs and $7 bucket. They take soft serve ice cream and stuff it in the middle. If they aren’t stuffed, most stands can put soft serve on top or condensed milk, another staple snoball topping.  Original flavors, like orchid vanilla, king cake, and strawberry shortcake, are constantly being added and keep things interesting.

More than the delicious dessert, snoballs and snoball stands have countless memories attached. Plum Street catered big school events like volleyball games and the senior’s last day of class. My friends and I would go to Plum Street on our breaks during rehearsal for the spring musical, and leave our plastic wrapped pails in the bleachers while we practiced. Sal’s is on the Metairie St. Patrick’s Day parade route, so my friend and I would always stop by sometime during the day. In the summer, I did community theatre at a church across the street, and we’d get snoballs after rehearsal and sit on the log benches for hours. One night, seven of us split the giant $7 snoball after an exhausting dance rehearsal. I’ve never seen a snoball eaten so fast.

Alone but not Lonely

There’s something magical about sitting in a dark theatre alone.

Last night, I went to the “We Always Swing” jazz series for the first time. I’ve never had anything against jazz before, but I’d never been to a formal concert before. I was going as a requirement for a class and ended up completely enjoying myself.

The performance was a combination of the MU Concert Jazz Band and the professional Joe Locke-Geoffrey Keezer Group. I’ve always been involved in music programs, and I think it’s so phenomenal that college students have the opportunity to perform with professional musicians. The program is benefitting more than just the Columbia community members who bought tickets. It’s fostering jazz education. And the Concert Band was great. I didn’t realize that they weren’t professional musicians until reading the program at intermission.

The second half was solely the Joe Locke-Geoffrey Keezer Group. They performed some of their older songs, but were promoting their newest CD Signing. The first thing Joe Locke did when he entered the stage was ask the Missouri Theatre to turn up the lights to see the audience’s faces. I’d never been to a performance where the musicians wanted so much audience interaction, unless it was a major concert tour. He talked about music being an interactive process. A conversation between the musicians on stage and the audience in the seats. It was something I’d never heard an artist say before, and absolutely refreshing. We’re involved in the experiences we have at the theatre and bring our experiences, opinions and feelings.

Getting all of that out of a mandatory concert on a Thursday was pretty sublime.