5 Preservers Of New Orleans' Cultural Heritage

With a history and culture marked by French, Spanish, and African influences, New Orleans is often considered one of the most distinctive cities in the United States. To ensure this heritage is never lost, a number of organizations work to keep the city's diverse traditions and spaces alive. In no particular order, here are some groups protecting and perpetuating the legacy of the Big Easy for generations to come.

For #1 we find the Krewe of Cleopatra. Inaugurated in 1972 to honor the titular queen, this all-female community of family, friends, locals, and out-of-towners helps kick off the Mardi Gras season each year. Parading through the streets, its members draw inspiration from Cleopatra's grace, power, and particular brand of femininity. Ladies of all ages and backgrounds are welcome to apply for Krewe Membership.

Accepted new members in good standing are supplied with items including a costume top, wig, harness, and mask, to be used while riding in the parade. Every year, the Krewe also names a Queen Cleopatra among its members, and awards additional honors for those it deems "Jewels of the Nile." Parade pre-parties and after-parties are also held.

Arriving at #2 is the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans, which works to preserve New Orleans' historic architecture, neighborhoods, and cultural identity through collaboration, empowerment, and service to the community. It carries out its mission by advocating at the local, state, and federal levels; educating citizens and students through outreach programs; and maintaining a preservation easements program to safeguard historic structures.

Thanks to its efforts, the P.R.C. has helped save the federal tax credit for historic rehabilitation, created a property tax abatement for home renovation, and prevented inappropriate demolitions. The group also provides funding to qualified, low- to moderate-income homeowners, so they can remain in their houses and pass their property on to future generations. The P.R.C. further promotes awareness through its award-winning magazine "Preservation in Print," published multiple times throughout the year.

For #3 we get the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation. It was set up in 1970 as the nonprofit owner of Jazz Fest, with a mission to sow the seeds of the region's unique culture for generations to come. Today, the Foundation continues to promote, preserve, perpetuate, and encourage the music, culture, and heritage of communities in Louisiana. It does this primarily through festivals, programs, and other civic activities.

All year long, the Foundation produces events that spotlight the unique culture and creators of the Big Easy. In addition to the world-famous Jazz Fest, it hosts festivals that showcase such music as R&B, zydeco, and African drumming. The Jazz & Heritage concert series brings many of the leading figures of modern American music to New Orleans, while lectures, literary events, and gallery exhibits provide outlets for intellectual enrichment and creative expression.

Next at #4 is Save Our Cemeteries, which carries out restoration, education, and advocacy initiatives to preserve, promote, and protect New Orleans' historic cemeteries. Founded in 1974 in response to a demolition proposal, the nonprofit quickly realized the problem of graveyard neglect was not limited to just one area, and began working toward restoring tombs and vaults throughout the city.

In addition to its restoration and policy efforts, SOC hosts lectures and cemetery tours. Designed for school field trips, corporate groups, and other parties large or small, walking tours provide insights into various "Cities of the Dead," such as St. Louis No. 1 and Lafayette No. 1 cemeteries. Guests learn about mourning and burial customs, as well as the diverse musicians, war generals, artists, politicians, and other figures interred in the grounds.

Finally, coming in at #5 is Friends of City Park. This regional, non-profit organization works to maintain and promote City Park as a place of natural beauty, culture, recreation, and education for the public. At 1,300 acres, the area is one of the largest of its kind in the country. It houses a plethora of wildlife, as well as community attractions such as the New Orleans Museum of Art, the New Orleans Botanical Gardens, and more.

Since its inception, F.O.C.P. has helped to restore and refurbish major attractions, such as the Amusement Park, the Casino Building, and Storyland. It has also constructed new attractions including Big Lake and City Putt. The group holds three major fundraisers a year: Martini Madness, Ghosts in the Oaks, and Lark in the Park. Proceeds raised from these events benefit capital improvement projects within the area.