Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS - Of the 22 stages at French Quarter fest, there's only one that's strictly non-local.

On the international stage in Dutch Alley, musicians hail from all over the world, paying their way to visit New Orleans and performing for free, drawn by the idea of playing jazz in its birthplace.

'I think they're the greatest ambassadors for New Orleans jazz' said Ralf Black, longtime stage manager for the international stage. 'They tell back home how great New Orleans is, how great it is to be here.'

And that in turn, is another boost for the city, which is part of what French Quarter Fest is all about.

'A lot of area businesses tell us its their best week of the year,' said Executive Director Marci Schramm.

According to tourism officials, hotels are virtually sold out this weekend. They're hoping a sunny forecast will help break last year's attendance record.

Last year, organizers said, more than 530,000 people attended the four day fest, with an economic impact of $245 million. Business owners said it helps keep the French Quarter healthy.

'It's obvious the economy's turned around because people are buying and spending and it's just been really an awesome awesome, weekend so far and it's only halfway over,' said Rhonda Findley, owner of Pop City clothing store.

And as the fest continues, locals and tourists alike continue to enjoy the best New Orleans has to offer.

'The French Quarter Fest is one of our favorite festivals because its free, it's open. We can get all of our friends together,' said Mary Lou O'Keefe, a New Orleans native.

'Love it,' said Tony Mijares of Miami. 'Great atmosphere, great food, great music, great people. What more can you ask for?'

Organizers said the real impact of French Quarter Fest reaches far beyond this weekend. It gives visitors a taste of New Orleans so they spread the word and keep coming back.

During the festival, New Orleans Police could shut down some streets if the crowds get too thick. The closures will run from North Peters and Decatur, Canal to St. Ann, and Dauphine to North Peters. Traffic should return to normal when the festival ends at 8 p.m. Sunday night.

Click here for Sunday's lineup.

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