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Jazz Fest kicks off with hometown favorites Connick, Neville

Associated Press logo Associated Press 4/29/2017
Harry Connick, Jr. peforms during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival at the Fairgrounds, Friday, April 25, 2017. (Ted Jackson/NOLA.com The Times-Picayune via AP) © The Associated Press Harry Connick, Jr. peforms during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival at the Fairgrounds, Friday, April 25, 2017. (Ted Jackson/NOLA.com The Times-Picayune via AP)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Thousands of music fans descended on the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on Friday to see some hometown favorites who've made their mark nationally.

People attend the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2017 at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, La., on Friday, April 28, 2017. (Matthew Hinton/The Advocate via AP) © The Associated Press People attend the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2017 at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, La., on Friday, April 28, 2017. (Matthew Hinton/The Advocate via AP)

Pianist, vocalist and New Orleans native Harry Connick Jr. closed out the festival's largest venue while Aaron Neville's distinctive voice shut down the Blues Tent.

Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns perform on the Acura stage with Lake dancing with Chance Bushman at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2017 at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, La., on Friday, April 28, 2017. (Matthew Hinton/The Advocate via AP) © The Associated Press Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns perform on the Acura stage with Lake dancing with Chance Bushman at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2017 at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, La., on Friday, April 28, 2017. (Matthew Hinton/The Advocate via AP)

Attendee Nancy Davis and her husband, Richard Ashmore — whom she met at Jazz Fest in 1985 — arrived before dawn to celebrate the anniversary of their meeting and her 40th year of "festing," she told The Advocate (http://bit.ly/2puyij8 ).

Members of the Black Mohawk and Black Foot Hunters Mardi Gras Indians parade at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2017 at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, La. Friday, April 28, 2017. (Matthew Hinton/The Advocate via AP) © The Associated Press Members of the Black Mohawk and Black Foot Hunters Mardi Gras Indians parade at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2017 at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, La. Friday, April 28, 2017. (Matthew Hinton/The Advocate via AP)

Her first festival in 1977 was memorable, she said, because she managed to see performances by both Ella Fitzgerald and Stevie Wonder.

Nas and The Soul Rebels perform during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans on Friday, April 28, 2017. (Brett Duke/NOLA.com The Times-Picayune via AP) © The Associated Press Nas and The Soul Rebels perform during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans on Friday, April 28, 2017. (Brett Duke/NOLA.com The Times-Picayune via AP)

"You just can't beat it," Davis said. She said she attends all seven days of the festival every single year. "I'm hooked."

Leo Jackson and the Melody Clouds perform in the Gospel Tent during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival at the Fairgrounds, Friday, April 25, 2017. (Ted Jackson/NOLA.com The Times-Picayune via AP) © The Associated Press Leo Jackson and the Melody Clouds perform in the Gospel Tent during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival at the Fairgrounds, Friday, April 25, 2017. (Ted Jackson/NOLA.com The Times-Picayune via AP)

Laura Valliant, 64, and about 30 other people meet for breakfast at the same restaurant each year before the festival opens.

Kristin Diable and the City perform during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on Friday, April 25, 2017. (Ted Jackson/NOLA.com The Times-Picayune via AP) © The Associated Press Kristin Diable and the City perform during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on Friday, April 25, 2017. (Ted Jackson/NOLA.com The Times-Picayune via AP)

"Once a year, you just see people that you don't see the rest of the year, and it's like a family reunion," said Valliant, who also goes to the festival every day it's open. "There's the music and the food, but it's really about the people."

Jennie McColl and Bern Pagan, both from the D.C. area, dance during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival at the Fairgrounds, Friday, April 25, 2017. (Ted Jackson/NOLA.com The Times-Picayune via AP) © The Associated Press Jennie McColl and Bern Pagan, both from the D.C. area, dance during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival at the Fairgrounds, Friday, April 25, 2017. (Ted Jackson/NOLA.com The Times-Picayune via AP)

But the music is the thing for close friends Sandi Gumpert, 46, and Susan Parker, 61, who have been attending Jazz Fest together for more than a decade.

Leon Bridges performs during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans on Friday, April 28, 2017. (Brett Duke/NOLA.com The Times-Picayune via AP) © The Associated Press Leon Bridges performs during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans on Friday, April 28, 2017. (Brett Duke/NOLA.com The Times-Picayune via AP)

Gumpert said she was wanted to see Johnny Sansone, one of the first acts scheduled Friday morning. But she probably didn't manage to hear every song because of her personal goal of "1.75 bph" — seeing 1.75 bands per hour.

Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns perform during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans on Friday, April 28, 2017. (Brett Duke/NOLA.com The Times-Picayune via AP) © The Associated Press Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns perform during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans on Friday, April 28, 2017. (Brett Duke/NOLA.com The Times-Picayune via AP)

"I always try to go see new people," she said, while sipping a Bloody Mary.

Allen Pazon dances in front of the Jazz and Heritage Stage during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans on Friday, April 28, 2017. (Brett Duke/NOLA.com The Times-Picayune via AP) © The Associated Press Allen Pazon dances in front of the Jazz and Heritage Stage during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans on Friday, April 28, 2017. (Brett Duke/NOLA.com The Times-Picayune via AP)

"The diversity is fabulous," Parker said.

Packed crowds for some of the bigger acts often draw the most complaints from attendees. But there was room for spectators as Connick started his closing act and as Nas began to perform with his guests, the Soul Rebels

The seven-day festival wraps over two weekends, ending May 7. Besides 11 stages of music, the fest this year features a cultural exchange area dedicated to Cuba that will have music, foods and crafts from the country.

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