- Associated Press - Thursday, May 4, 2017

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Fans braved an inordinate amount of rain on Thursday to kick off the second weekend of the seven-day New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

The rain muddied and puddled the infield of the Fair Grounds Race Course but failed to keep music lovers away from the festival, which showcased performances by Widespread Panic, Darius Rucker and Corinne Bailey Rae.

A packed crowd stood under gray skies before the festival’s largest stage to cheer Widespread Panic, the jam band from Athens, Georgia, who went through a litany of their songs, including “Travelin’ Light,” and “Heroes.”

Rucker, who gained fame with Hootie & the Blowfish before pursuing a solo career as a country music performer, closed out the festival’s second-largest stage, dancing and singing his way through his 90-minute set.

Thursday is often less crowded than the weekends and is a popular day for New Orleans-area residents to attend the festival. NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune reports (https://bit.ly/2pewurJ ) there also are usually lots of younger faces in the crowd thanks to School Day at the Fest, a program dedicated to bringing New Orleans students to the city’s largest classroom to get an education in what makes their city’s culture unique.

Sunny skies are expected for the last three days of the festival, which ends Sunday. Friday’s headliners include Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, Wilco, Earth, Wind & Fire and Boney James.

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