July 5, 2006 | New Orleans

For the last 15 years, I have spent my July 4th evenings working the Go 4th on the River Celebration. Each year, the entire Riverfront is crowded not only with locals but also with visitors from the Essence Festival, an annual July 4th weekend event which produces sold out hotels and very happy restaurants and retail businesses. But there was a different scenario this year…the year after Katrina set our city and tourism industry back. Just as many conventions moved to other cities this year, so did the Essence Festival.

I participated this year for the first time as a spectator. There was a steady rain all day but the weathermen assured us that the rain would end. Driving downtown there was hardly any traffic. Parking was not a problem as is the case most years. I had dinner with my wife and friends at Harrah's Casino and then headed out to Woldenberg Park to stake out my spot to view the "dueling barges fireworks show" light the sky. What I saw was lots and lots of families that came out after the rain ended to enjoy what I would have to say was one of the best fireworks shows in all the past years of this event. It ended up being a beautiful evening, the city lights of our skyline illuminated the Riverfront and you could sense that everyone was so thankful to be home, in New Orleans, along the riverfront participating in this patriotic "proud to be an American" event.

I know that Essence will be back in New Orleans in the coming years, but I will remember this 4th as one that I am truly proud to call New Orleans home.