The largest international music and arts festival in the United States is back.

Festival International de Louisiane is underway in downtown Lafayette and runs through Sunday. Now in its 31st year, the festival presents musical performances, theater, art exhibits and markets, food and workshops. The free event draws more than 300,000 attendees each year.

Festival International’s 2017 lineup includes Haiti’s Lakou Mizik, Zimbabwe’s Mokoomba and, Dengue Fever, a Los Angeles band that blends 1960s Cambodian pop and with psychedelic rock.

This year’s new performers include Mexico’s Las Cafeteras and India’s Falu. Returning acts include the explosive New York via India band Red Baraat and Israel’s Balkan Beat Box.

“We have musicians representing cultures with a growing community here in Acadiana such as Québec, Haiti, Cuba, China and India,” Scott Feehan, the festival’s executive director, said in a statement. “Other countries we’re happy to be hosting include Cambodia, Russia, Zimbabwe, France and Israel.”

Performers from Acadiana include The Viatones, Dwight J. Roy, The Revelers, and GIVERS, the alternative-pop band that will close out the show. On Sunday, GIVERS will perform with Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth from Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club, Acadiana's Dickie Landry, Mookoomba and other guests. 

The 2017 Festival International is down a stage. Citing loss of sponsorship and the historic August 2016 flooding, festival officials cut the Scène Heritage stage. Ironically, it featured many of the event’s Cajun and zydeco bands, some of which have moved to other stages and days.

“We had phone call after phone call losing corporate sponsors’ support,” Feehan explained in a statement.

“It was hard for us to let it go, but we had to make a decision,” said April Courville, the festival’s marketing director. “That was what it came down to.”

The Scenic Heritage stage costs $35,000 to produce. Festival organizers hope to bring it back next year.

Corporate sponsorships provide about $330,000 of Festival International’s $1.1 million budget. Beverage sales, the sale of festival passes and individual donors are among the free festival’s other funding sources.

In 2016, visitors from 49 states and 10 countries attended Festival International. The five-day event contributes about $49 million to Lafayette’s economy. Festivalgoers from beyond Lafayette spent half of that money while attendees from outside of Louisiana spent a third of those funds.


FESTIVAL INTERNATIONAL MUSIC PICKS

Dengue Fever

Mixing vintage Cambodian pop with psychedelic rock, Los Angeles’ Dengue Fever features Cambodian chanteuse Chhom Nimol. The group’s third album, “Venus on Earth,” and its irresistible account of a long-distance love affair, “Tiger Phone Card,” won the band such famous fans as Peter Gabriel, Ray Davies and Metallica’s Kirk Hammett.

WHEN: 9:30 p.m. Friday at Scène TV5Monde; and 4 p.m. Saturday at Scène Laborde Earles Fais Do Do

Lakou Mizik

From Haiti, Lakou Mizik blends influences from Africa, France, the Caribbean and the U.S. with the group’s indigenous troubadou, vodou, rara and urban soul styles.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday at Scène Laborde Earles Fais Do Do; and 5 p.m. Saturday Scène LUS Internationale

Mokoomba

From the Chinotimba township, Mokoomba is among Zimbabwe’s most popular bands. In 2008, Mokoomba won the Music Crossroads Inter-Regional Festival Competition in Zimbabwe.

WHEN: 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Scène LUS Internationale; and 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Scène Laborde Earles Fais Do Do

Red Baraat 

Jazz, hip-hop, rock, funk and bhangra rhythms are the ingredients for this global band. Called "the best party band in years" by NPR, the group brings a new meaning to the word fun with each performance. 

WHEN: 5:45 p.m. Saturday at Scène Laborde Earles Fais Do Do; and 3:45 p.m. Sunday at Scène LUS Internationale 

Ceux Qui Marchent Debout 

A funk band from France, this group is known for its amplified brass instruments from the 1930s. Expect the group to literally take the music to the fans, too, as the band is known to get offstage. 

WHEN: 9:30 p.m. Friday at Scène LUS Internationale; and 3:15 p.m. Sunday at the Scène Laborde Earles Fais Do Do 


WHAT TO EAT AT FESTIVAL INTERNATIONAL 

Crawfish Spinach Boat from Bon Creole Seafood ($9): The go-to dish for newcomers and longtime fans of the festival. It's creamy, cheesy crawfish and spinach in a bread boat. 

Brisket Burrito from Taco Sisters ($8): It's no secret that Taco Sisters has some of the best tacos and burritos in Lafayette. If you haven't tried them, fix that this weekend. 

Grilled Pimento Cheese & Bacon Jam from Blanchards BBQ ($8/$11 with fries): Two of the greatest condiments on one sandwich. 

Boudin Pizza Burger from Dean-O's ($8): Does this come with an ambulance?  

Boudin from Lagneaux's and Norbert's Restaurant ($4): Speaking of boudin, the saying goes, "When in Lafayette... (do'est as the Cajuns do, and eat boudin)" (That's the saying, right?) 


PARKING AND TRANSPORTATION

Festival officials encourage attendees to use the free Service Chevrolet Cadillac Shuttle. The shuttle operates Friday from Cajun Field, at the corner of Congress Street and Cajundome Boulevard. On Saturday and Sunday, the shuttle operates from Blackham Coliseum at the corner of Johnston Street and Cajundome Boulevard.


Festival International de Louisiane

Featuring music, food and craft beer, arts markets and more

WHEN: Wednesday, April 26-Sunday, April 30

WHERE: Downtown Lafayette

COST: Free

INFO: festivalinternational.org


Matthew Sigur contributed to this report