Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS Take great music, local food and a heavy downpour and that sums up this first day of the 2013 French Quarter Fest, a festival that's grown tremendously since its more humble beginnings 30 years ago.

The Preservation Hall Stars kicked off the festival Thursday morning.

'First time here,' said Nikki Forester, who is from Michigan. 'I'm loving it.'

Then there are those like Larry Durante, who has been to nearly every French Quarter Fest.

'I was here for the second one I didn't make the first one. I made every one since,' Durante said. 'It's free, it's fun. What else can you say? It's so New Orleans.'

Part of what makes it so New Orleans is the music.

'Mom wants to see Dr. Michael White, Kermit Ruffins, Irma Thomas. Who else do we want to see? The Moonshiners,' said Melinda Poole of New Orleans.

'What's cool is you can just walk around the street and bump into great musicians-- and that's a wonderful thing,' Durante said.

This year, there are even more places to see them, with a new stage set up on Decatur Street. It is an effort to keep up with the growing number of people attending the festival; last year's French Quarter Fest saw 574,000 people.

'It's always a fun challenge,' said Marci Shramm, the festival's executive director. 'We do see that people need more room, so we're always stretching.'

The culinary inclined can stretch, too. In a neighborhood that already boasts a number of restaurants, there are also local food booths set up throughout the festival areas.

While the festival was temporarily suspended this afternoon because of heavy rain, the festival's director said it can't stop what they've been planning since September.

'People come from all over the world for this festival and they enjoy every minute of it,' Shramm said. 'And so we take so much pleasure in seeing we created something that made so many people happy. I know that sounds hokey, but it's true.'

More information on the festival can be found by clicking here.

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