Lafayette is poised to welcome more than 400,000 people to its downtown streets this week for the 30th anniversary of the city’s popular Festival International de Louisiane, featuring music, food and art from around the world.
The people behind the festival, which started Wednesday and runs through Sunday, are taking advantage of the milestone to offer festivalgoers a walk down memory lane, with displays of posters, pins and artwork from throughout the festival’s history.
The artists performing this year hail from 25 different regions and countries and include some who performed at the inaugural Festival International de Louisiane in 1986.
The festival also will introduce some of the world’s newest up-and-coming artists, according to April Courville, the festival’s marketing director.
Fan favorites returning this year include France’s international superstar CharlElie Couture, Martinique’s DéDé St. Prix and Australia’s The Waifs. In addition, first-time festival performers A-WA, of Israel, are expected to be a favorite among festivalgoers.
“I think this is A-WA’s third performance in the U.S.,” Courville said.
Festivalgoers can visit lineup.festivalinternational.org for the week’s full musical lineup. In addition, the Festival International de Louisiane app offers up-to-date information on the locations and schedules of all festival activities.
Festival International was established in 1986 in an effort to boost the local economy, which was struggling because of a tremendous downfall in the oil economy.
Thirty years later, Lafayette is again facing the economic strain that comes with a decline in the oil and gas industry. And once again, Festival International is expected to provide a welcome boost to the local economy, according to Ben Berthelot, president and CEO of the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission.
He said the overall economic impact of the festival has been estimated at just over $49 million a year in each of the past several years.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to get people to visit for the first time,” Berthelot said. “At the same time, it’ll be a nice shot in the arm for our local hotel community since the downturn of the oil economy.”
The festival is free, but festivalgoers are encouraged to voluntarily purchase a $10 festival pin as their “ticket” into the festival, which Courville said helps to support putting it on.
“We’ve worked to diversify the economy here in Lafayette, so we’re glad this festival can be a part of the stimulus for the economy here in the town and also just to educate and enrich the lives of the community here,” Courville said. “I think for all of the entertainment offered throughout the week, the $10 pin purchase is very reasonable.”
In addition to plenty of music, the crowds flocking to downtown streets for the festival will be able to enjoy tasty fare offered up by local and international food vendors while perusing unique trinkets from around the globe for sale under white-pitched tents.
In honor of Festival International’s 30th anniversary, an exhibit has been set up at the Lafayette Science Museum featuring all of the festival’s old pins, posters and artwork.
In addition, a “festival of photography retrospective” display will be shown in front of the downtown fire station and old archival footage showing the past 30 years of the festival will be displayed downtown.
“We focus on all of the cultural components that make up the Cajun culture here in Acadiana,” Courville said. “We try to expose people in Lafayette, and also people from all over the world, to why this area is so special and what influences our culture here.”