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Letters to the Editor 

FRENCH QUARTER FESTIVAL RESPONDS
French Quarter Festivals Inc. (FQFI) has enjoyed a special relationship with Gambit Weekly for many years, and your support of the annual French Quarter Festival (FQF), as well as other FQFI events, has been much appreciated. So it was surprising to find Scott Jordan inaccurately stating that the festival's annual gross revenues exceed more than $1 million ("Can You Spare a Quarter," March 18). If only it were so! His accusation that FQFI is loaded with cash and chooses not to pay more to the musicians who play at our event is unfounded and insulting to the FQFI board, staff, sponsors and volunteers. As Mr. Jordan could have learned had he asked us, the net revenues for FQF 2002 were approximately $200,000. This revenue, which fluctuates from year to year, serves as seed money for the following year and helps defray FQFI's annual operating expenses. The event operates with just six full-time staff and 1,000 volunteers. This free festival is in its 20th year because our volunteers care and make sacrifices of their personal time to put on an event that draws nearly 300,000 people to the Vieux Carre in a three-day period, showing off to the world our city's unique culture, music and food.

We would love to pay our musicians more. They are certainly deserving. But we can't spend what we don't have. To compare FQF with a smaller event, funded by the City of Lafayette, is unfair and misleading. The French Quarter Festival is a free annual affair of the heart that showcases all of the wonderful virtues that make the Vieux Carre and New Orleans extra special, and the growing economic impact of this event -- which is produced on a very limited budget -- is astounding. We have had the support of our local musicians who understand that we can offer them a venue, but not a big payday. Each year, we are blessed because so many great musicians share our passion and are anxious to play. We hope that Gambit Weekly will continue to support this New Orleans tradition and the many loyal musicians, volunteers and businesses that make this free, uniquely New Orleans celebration a success.

--Ann Masson
President, French Quarter Festivals Inc.

SCOTT JORDAN RESPONDS: I wrote that "the small-staffed non-profit organization had gross revenues in 2001 of more than a million dollars," which is true. However, I should have added that French Quarter Festival falls under the umbrella of French Quarter Festivals Inc., which also produces two smaller events, Satchmo Summerfest and Christmas New Orleans Style. Gross revenues for the French Quarter Festival in 2002 were $679,490, according to FQFI.


THE BRAVERY BALLLOT

Thanks for the excellent article about Toni Balot, Father Roy Bourgeois, and the School of the Americas ("Crossing the Line," Feb. 18). I wish I had the courage of Balot and Bourgeois; they are in the tradition of the Berrigan brothers, ready to go to jail for their convictions.

I have followed the news of Bourgeois for some years now and have heard him speak several times. Still, however, much of the public does not know of the School of the Americas.

One thing that might have been added to Frank Etheridge's article: Bourgeois was decorated for his service in Vietnam, receiving, I believe, two Purple Hearts.

--Russell B. Guerin


OUR NOXIOUS "WORLD"
Your editorial "cartoon" (if it can be called that) of President Bush's State of the Union speech ("This Modern World," Feb. 4) gives cause for concern. I refer to the series of panels depicting the President at his rostrum with such characterizations of this speech as "lies, lies, lies ... self-serving rhetoric ..., etc."

Disagreements and debate in a democracy are essential to its health. Papers such as yours provide a forum for this important exercise of citizenship. In carrying out this function, you should present both sides of the question and your own opinions as well.

Therefore, it is not the publication of a cartoon critical of the president's speech that I question. It behooves those of us who admire and support the president to concede that there are others who do not share these views. They have every right to express their opposition. It is the mindless, mean-spirited manner in which the opposition was expressed in the cartoon that I object to. It contained no humor and no thought as an editorial cartoon should. If our democratic way of life is to prosper, the public debate must be tempered by civility and mutual respect. Otherwise, we will fight among ourselves like the vicious, vengeful Greens and Blues, Guelfs and Ghibellines and Royalists and Jacobins in unhealthy societies of years gone by, and our precious democracy will be lost.

You probably are saying to yourself that you don't need a lecture on journalism. But, alas, you do, for publishing such a vile and noxious piece. It is not a question of censorship. It is a question of competent and print-worthy material. I urge you to be more selective in the future.

--Gordon F. Wilson Jr.


THAT'S MY BOY
I really enjoyed your article on R.J. Tsarov ("Inside the Mind of R.J. Tsarov," March 11). I find him to be a great person and a wonderful writer. I am very proud of his success. He was a wonderful young man growing up and a wonderful son.

His mom,
--Rita Nemechek


THE WRITE STUFF
Bravo, Ronnie Virgets. Most writers craft sentences from words and give you a choice: "take it ... or leave it!" Not Virgets. His words grab you by the collar and yank you into the page and never let go, pulling you along as you become one with the writer, walking side by side with him in his experience. "Consciousness raising"? Forget it! That's for hacks. Virgets takes you from Point A, where you are, to Point B, where he wants you to be. That's writing!

--George Gurtner

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