With the rain’s noticeable absence on Sunday, revelers enjoyed the last hours of this year’s Festival International de Louisiane listening to the bands’ dynamic sounds, devouring local dishes and wandering through Marché du Monde’s rows of imported goods.
The community-based festival completed its 29th year as the largest, free, outdoor Francophone event in the country. The five-day event was expected to compete with, if not overcome, last year’s 400,000 attendees, festival organizers said.
“This is what festival is about!” exclaimed festivalgoer Carol Comeaux, throwing her arms in the direction of Labaja, a Nigerian band. “I would have never have listened to something as exotic — which I’m absolutely loving, by the way — if the festival had never thought to bring them here.”
Like Comeaux, thousands of curious ears gathered all weekend to listen to the bold, unfamiliar sounds of bands like Noura Mint Seymali, from the west African country of Mauritania, or Honduras’ Aurelio Martinez, and to become reacquainted with familiar groups like Feufollet or Buckwheat Zydeco, who closed out the festival.
Unlike the previous days, Sunday began with an hourlong French Catholic Mass held by the Rev. John Melancon at Scène Chevron Heritage.
From there, festivalgoers could walk down East Vermilion Street to the next stage, Scène Popeyes Pavillon de Cuisine, and listen to the Nova Scotian Unisson’s powerful Cajun ballads and vibrant Irish jigs.
More than 200 artists and vendors displayed their artwork, jewelry, clothing and Grammy award-winning rub boards in the festival’s bazaarlike areas.
Andrea Kostyal, a Hungarian-born Mississippi native, displayed her vibrant paintings of New Orleans and areas throughout Europe in the Marché des Arts.
“This is my first time at the festival,” Kostyal said. “I love the town. It’s beautiful, and everyone is so sweet and welcoming.”
Bill Baltas, a native of Greece, and his wife, Alla Baltas, reside in Baton Rouge, where the two own a fine art gallery.
“My wife is the artist,” Bill Baltas said. “She goes down to the bayou all the time and to New Orleans.”
Baltas said he and his wife have been coming to the festival since 2010.
Attendees also could experience festival in a new way: the festival pass.
The festival passes were to ensure the ultimate experience with express drink lines, exclusive rooftop views and private restrooms. The passes ranged from $65 to $1,000.
“Does it get a little crazy?” festival volunteer Jennifer Broussard asked. “Absolutely, but it’s never an uncomfortable crazy. It’s successful because people are willing to look for the alternative, the different. People want to experience all walks of life, and we get to bring the rest of the world to downtown Lafayette.”