LAFAYETTE — A major celebration of Louisiana’s Acadian roots begins Friday in New Orleans and ends Oct. 16 in Lafayette.
Grand Réveil Acadien — the Great Acadian Awakening — is a series of gatherings centered on revitalizing the Acadian culture and French language in Louisiana.
“This is for the Cajuns of Louisiana and for the Acadians of the world to come together,” said Brenda Comeaux Trahan, the event’s director. “It’s to give Louisiana’s Acadian culture a chance to transform the future and learn from the Acadians who have been able to preserve their culture and language.”
Events are planned for New Orleans, Houma and Lake Charles before a four-day finale in Lafayette coinciding with Festivals Acadiens et Creoles in Girard Park.
More than 500 visitors from Canada, France and other parts of the world are expected, Trahan said.
“All of the events will be educational and give us an opportunity to know more about who the Cajuns are,” she said. “What’s really going to happen is those serendipitous moments people will have when they meet people who have the same last name or the same look as their grandparents.”
Those visible connections will hopefully inspire renewed interest in participants’ heritage, Trahan said.
In Louisiana, the French language is “in distress,” Trahan said.
“It’s waning so quickly,” she said of the French language. “We’ve got to start fighting the battle.”
And that battle starts with the young people, she said.
Special activities for teens ages 14 to 18 are planned in Lafayette and registration for available spots in the youth program closes Friday, said Valerie Broussard Boston, youth program coordinator.
Boston said she hopes the event serves as a catalyst for an association of local teens interested in preserving the Acadian culture and language. She said such associations are commonplace in Canada.
While French immersion programs are popular in Lafayette, few students speak the language outside of the classroom, she said.
“That social component is lacking,” she said. “Immersion has been around since the ’80s, but you still don’t hear French in the streets. The idea is to make French leave the classroom and it’s not just spoken in school.”
On Oct. 13, the event arrives in Lafayette for the Fête de Famille — a full day of activities including Acadiana family gatherings, lectures, a film festival and music — at the Cajundome Convention Center.
The Fête de Famille is free — but there is a $20 charge for a buffet luncheon at 11:30 a.m. featuring Stephen White, a genealogist from Moncton University in New Brunswick.
Trahan asked that those interested in attending the luncheon register as soon as possible. Other events are free, but Trahan asked that all those who plan to attend the Fête de Famille register online for planning purposes by Friday.
The Lafayette festivities also coincide with the Festivals Acadiens et Créoles — a celebration featuring Creole and Cajun music, crafts and food held Oct. 14-16 in Girard Park.
The Grand Réveil Acadien ends Oct. 16 at the festival with an outdoor Mass celebrated in French and observances of similar traditions celebrated by the Acadian people.
The Grand Réveil Acadien is organized by Louisiane-Acadie, a nonprofit group created to promote the Acadian culture and French language.
The event was produced after Acadiana lost its bid to host the 2014 gathering of Acadians called the Congrés Mondial Acadien (Acadian World Congress), which meets every five years.
Trahan said the goal is to continue Grand Réveil Acadien every five years — in between each Congrés.
“Our hope is that we can continue the Grand Réveil Acadien as we move forward to change the face of the Acadians in Louisiana,” she said.
ON THE INTERNET:
For more information or to register for the Grand Réveil Acadien, visit http://www.gra2011.org.