Photos: Festival International _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BRAD BOWIE -- An overhead view of the Popeyes Pavillon de Cuisine is seen during Festival International de Louisiane 2014 on Saturday.

Looking to continue its growth but remain free, Festival International de Louisiane is rolling out new optional paid passes with perks, from restroom access and shaded seating to catering and an open bar.

“This is the first time we’ve ever done something like this, so we expect some questions and some concerns, but we want to assure everyone that this is a better way to make sure people really get the experience that they are looking for,” said April Courville, marketing director with the festival.

The passes, which come in three tiers, aim to keep the spring world music festival free for the general public.

“Festival is still free for everyone and anyone who wants to attend,” Courville said. “This is just a new way to elevate the experience for those who wish to do so.”

The idea for the optional paid passes emerged from a rethinking of the festival’s donation programs following a survey sent out to attendees after this year’s festival.

“A lot of people came back with the response, ‘Well, we find the donor program is a little confusing, and we would like to be able to support festival, but we’d also like some enhanced comforts like private restrooms, wash stations and shorter drink lines,’ ” Courville said.

The new passes will offer varying perks based on price, including access to private restrooms, express beverage lines during the festival, shaded seating, private cash bars and access to a lounge area atop the Vermilion Parking Tower downtown.

“It’s a streamlined, nonintrusive way for supporters to support the organization,” she said.

The passes are now on sale and range from $65 for a Lagniappe Pass to $1,000 for a Marquis Pass. Early bird discounts are available through Dec. 31.

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The 29th Festival International de Louisiane will take place April 22-26.