New Orleans – A portion of the Ernest M. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans reopened in February, almost six weeks ahead of the projected April 1 target date. The Helen Brett Gift & Jewelry Show, held in New Orleans for 54 years, will hold the first post-Katrina event at the center beginning, Feb. 17. The last Helen Brett show held there ended just four days before Hurricane Katrina hit.
The show will be held in Halls E and F of the Morial Convention Center. Halls D, E and F together contain more than 300,000 square feet at the 3.1 million-square-foot building. They were among the least damaged as a result of the hurricane.
“They’ve done an excellent job ramping up for us,” said Robert Kolinek, president of Helen Brett Enterprises.
The Helen Brett trade show is expected to bring 500 exhibitors and 20,000 buyers to New Orleans for the popular regional event. Over the past decade, four Helen Brett shows have been held annually at the convention center. Most of the attendees are from the regional drive-in market, Kolinek said, so the show typically has a hotel block of 200 to 300 rooms.
“We are delighted to be able to open the building earlier than originally anticipated with the Helen Brett gift show,” said Kathleen Ratcliffe, executive vice president of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s a great boost for the tourism industry in New Orleans,” she said.
By June, eight of the convention center’s 12 halls and meeting room space are expected to be open, with full restoration expected by November. The fast pace of restoration is attributed in part to executive orders from Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco that helped expedite the process.
Following the Helen Brett trade show, the Convention Center will host three back-to-back Mardi Gras parades and balls.
As we go to press, nearly 95 percent of downtown hotels have been repaired and are open for business. Riverfront and some Canal St. streetcars are in operation and most major roads leading in and out of the city are open. Ten airlines are serving the city, and American Airlines resumed service from New York LaGuardia on Feb. 3.
Reach Robert Kolinek, Helen Brett Enterprises at (630) 241-9865 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Kathleen Ratcliffe, New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau at (504) 566-5044 or email@example.com.