When flying into New Orleans International Airport it’s the Louis Armstrong statue that offer the best indicator that you have arrived in one of the most unique cultural destinations in the United States. The statue is located in Concourse C (where most domestic flights arrive), near the Customer Relations desk. The statue was designed and erected by Blaine Kern’s Mardis Gras World, a local New Orleans company that has become world-famous for its float designs, sculptures, theme park props and more.
About Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong, often referred by the nickname “Satchmo”, remains a musical legend in New Orleans and Louisiana, and he is often considered to be one of the most influential jazz musicians of all time. In addition to being a brilliant trumpet and cornet player, Armstrong is remembered for his distinctive voice, his skilled scat singing and for introducing the concept of soloing to jazz music. He is also remembered as being one of the first “cross over” musicians, in that his music transcended race and social status.
Armstrong left New Orleans in 1922 only to return in 1931 and in 1949. Armstrong’s return to New Orleans in 1949 was criticized by some as he was invited to play ‘King Zulu’ for the Zulu krewe (Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club). The Zulu costumes worn by the krewe are often seen as derogatory by outsiders, but the krewe has traditionally worn black face to make light of racial stereotypes.
In truth, once Armstrong left New Orleans he never looked back. The city’s embracement of Jim Crow laws alienated many African-American musicians who would otherwise have called the city home. Many musical legends fled the city for greater opportunity in cities such as Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles. Armstrong made a name for himself first in Chicago and New York City, then later in Europe and Los Angeles, before settling down permanently in the Queens borough of New York City. Armstrong died July 6, 1971 in New York City from a heart attack. He was one month shy of his 70th birthday.
Other fun facts about the Airport
- The IATA code MSY derives from the Airport’s original name of Moisant Field/Moisant International. The MSY designator actually stands for Moisant Stock Yards, named after American aviator John Bevins Moisant. Prior to becoming an air field the land was used as a cattle stock yard.
- John Bevins Moisant, whose name is largely forgotten today, was a daring aviator whose achievements rivaled that of the Wright Brothers. Moisant had many aviation firsts, but among his most notable achievements was the construction of an all-metal aircraft (it crashed) and the first passenger flight across the English Channel. Moisant died in a plane crash in 1910 at the site of Moisant Stock Yards. For further reading about Moisant, see articles here and here.
- Louis Armstrong Airport hands out free beads to travelers every Friday between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m for a program entitled ‘Throw me something, Fridays’. The Airport estimates it hands out between 250 and 300 pounds of beads on a typical (non-Mardis Gras) Friday. In case you’re wondering about the environmental impact of this program, the beads are recycled and come cleaned and bundled by a local charitable organization.
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