In the heart of urban Lafayette lays a gateway to south Louisiana’s cultural history known as Vermilionville, and on Sunday, the folklife park re-created the state’s historical Creole life for visitors during its annual Creole Culture Day.
“We have the Cajun culture here, which is important, but there is so much more than that,” said Erin Segura, Bayou Vermilion District’s public relations and marketing coordinator. “(Creole) is such a huge part of the culture here in Lafayette, all over Louisiana, all over the world. It’s important for everyone to understand how these people celebrate their lives and their heritage.”
Dance Lessons, boat tours and cooking demonstrations were offered throughout the day, and visitors could travel down the Petit Bayou, visiting Vermilionville’s 19 exhibits of historical preservation, including its l’Ecole de Cuisine, Maison Broussard and La Chapelle des Attakapas.
As a play on last year’s theme of females in folklore, this year’s theme was fraternal folklore.
“We are showcasing a lot of the different areas in cultures that are thought of as more of the male aspects of the culture,” Segura said. “We are doing the sharing circle on the Creole cowboy tradition, which is something we are really highlighting this year.”
Segura said next year’s theme will most likely complete the circle, focusing on the youth in culture.
Vermilionville plant experts revealed a lengthy list of documented plants that Creoles once used. Common garden herbs like rosemary and peppermint were used for toothaches, colds and digestive disorders.
Children were encouraged to make rag dolls from strips of cloth and finger paint creole-themed pictures.
Visitors could also canoe along the location’s swampy waters or gather inside the welcome center to watch the Clifton Chenier film footage.
Chenier, known as the “King of Zydeco,” was a Grammy-winning musician from Opelousas, who was honored as a National Heritage Fellow and was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.
Local bands like Lil Buck Senegal Blues Band and Leroy Thomas & the Zydeco RoadRunners took to the stage throughout the day.
Every year, an individual who has shown an exceptional amount of hard work in preserving the Creole culture is presented with the Richard J. Catalon Sr. Creole Heritage Award.
This year’s recipient was Opelousas native Paul Scott. Co-founder of the Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Festival. Scott also has served on the boards of Festival International de Louisiane and the Holy Ghost Church Creole Festival for a total of 18 years. He is now working to rally support behind the creation of an economic district in south Opelousas.
“I am so proud of this award, but you know what it really does for me? It gives me the chance to put more information out there,” Scott said. “I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years are going to hold for me, which is hopefully raising my daughter, good health, music, life and the documentation of what those thousands of slaves helped spawn here.”
Scott also was on the panel of speakers for the Creole cowboy sharing circle, which focused on the rise of the trail ride.
“The sharing circle will be about how Creoles or blacks moved from the necessity to ride a horse to the pleasure of riding a horse,” he said. “Former slaves who could ride horses were brought in to help work with the cattle, and they just never left. In fact, the population started expanding.”
Scott said he is afraid if he doesn’t help preserve the culture’s history and traditions, it may never get done.
In addition to the Creole Culture Day, Vermilionville also celebrates Acadian Culture Day in August and Native American Culture Day in September.