LAFAYETTE — With Keith Frank on stage and bowls of shrimp and crawfish étouffée plentiful on Sunday, the final day of Festivals Acadiens et Créoles couldn’t have been better for festivalgoers like Anne Daigle.
“We don’t really come to this one most years,” the Breaux Bridge native said of the festival. “We came in for the (University of Louisiana at Lafayette) football game (Saturday) and passed through the park. I told my husband we were coming back today, and I’m so glad we did.”
Jeff Broussard is a self-proclaimed “die-hard Saints fan,” and he said he was reluctant to attend the festival with the Saints taking on the Philadelphia Eagles at the same time. Despite the Saints’ 39-17 loss during the festival, Broussard said the new sports tent — equipped with wide-screen TVs — allowed him to enjoy the best of both worlds.
“I don’t miss Saints games for nothing,” Broussard said. “This tent is pretty cool. They have a beer booth right in the tent, and I didn’t have to keep checking my phone for the score while enjoying some time out here with the family.”
According to its website, Festivals Acadiens et Créoles’ early history dates back to 1972 when the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana created the Louisiana Native Crafts Festival. In 1974, CODOFIL organized the first Tribute to Cajun Music Festival and concert in Lafayette’s Blackham Coliseum. In 1976, CODOFIL moved its Tribute to Cajun Music to its current location at Girard Park near the lake.
In 1977, the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission broadened the event with the Bayou Food Festival. The combination of events focusing on crafts, music and food of South Louisiana served as the basis for Festivals Acadiens et Créoles.
Alexis Smith, a recent University of Louisiana at Lafayette graduate with a minor in francophone studies, said the festival is very important to keeping the French heritage alive in Louisiana.
“A lot of early settlers of Louisiana were not allowed to celebrate their French heritage,” Smith said. “It was looked down upon to be a French speaker, and those early Cajuns were thought to be uneducated.
“This festival doesn’t get the publicity it deserves. It is so culturally important to this area.”
Travis Matte and the Kingpins played on Scène Ma Louisiane while the Bayou City Ramblers were on Scène Mon Héritage. Six stages in all had more than enough music and entertainment for everyone.
Festivalgoers had the choice of local beers from Bayou Teche Brewing in Arnaudville, and there was no shortage of seafood dishes and fried foods to satisfy appetites of all sizes. Daigle said the plethora of options at Festivals Acadiens et Créoles makes it unique.
“I think we get kind of jaded in this area on festivals,” Daigle said. “There’s one every weekend in every city and they all kind of run together. I don’t know if this one is like this every year, but to me, it was just different. Everyone is having a blast and already looking forward to next year.”