By STACEY PLAISANCE
2012-05-06 05:31 AM
"There are a lot of Latin American singers, but not many of this caliber are from Mexico," said Nancy Alonzo, a Mexican-born fan who moved to New Orleans five years ago. "It means a lot to us that she's here."
A mariachi band performed in an area of the festival grounds where Latin American arts and crafts like handmade Brazilian drums, paintings and sculptures were on display. As Honduran-born New Orleans artist Scarlett Alamiz demonstrated how to make a pinata, she talked about how excited she was that Rubio was at Jazz Fest.
"She's our Britney Spears," Alamiz said. "We're so happy she's here."
In honor of Cinco de Mayo, which celebrates Mexican heritage and pride, the festival sought Rubio and others including Rumba Buena and The Pedrito Martinez Group. Fans also got a taste of traditional music by Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Roland Guerin and John Boutte. The day's headliners included the Eagles, My Morning Jacket and Ne-Yo.
A steady flow of people filled the Fair Grounds Race Course for the festival, which runs through Sunday. An overcast sky and cool breezes provided reprieve from the heat and sun.
Toussaint, wearing a colorful red, yellow, green and black jacket, had the crowds camped in front of the Acura stage _ the festival's largest _ on their feet. Singer Theresa Andersson joined him for a funky duet of "Now You Know" and Cyril Neville made an appearance with him as well on "Old Treme."
Irma Thomas and the Eagles would follow his performance later in the day.
The festival also continued to give fans a taste of the new with debut performances by artists such as New Orleans' own Tarriona "Tank" Ball and the BlackStar Bangas. Earlier Saturday, she had a sparse group in the field fronting Congo Square on their feet, waving their arms, cheering and dancing as she performed an eclectic show that included rap, poetry and singing.
New Orleans residents Susan Ranheim and her husband, Steve Salm, planned to spend the weekend moving around the festival grounds.
"Roaming is the best way to experience Jazz Fest," Ranheim said. "We just stop when we find something we like listening to."
The couple said they don't like bringing chairs or anything that will bog them down.
"We don't want to be stuck with anything except each other," Ranheim said.
Under one of the music tents, fest-goers hoisted colorful umbrellas up and down as a jazz band played "When the Saints Go Marching In." On a nearby stage with musical acts geared for children, a New Orleans school jazz ensemble performed "Soul Man" as kids in the audience danced and clapped to the beat of the music.
All weekend long, children will be able to participate in arts and crafts projects such as decorating hand-held fans and sashes with feathers, beads and sparkly sequins. Some also decorated picture frames with red beans and rice.
Associated Press writer Chevel Johnson contributed to this report.