LAFAYETTE — Lafayette’s weeklong spring festival celebrating new ways of thinking and working together starts Wednesday as Innov8 Lafayette begins offering sunup-to-sundown seminars and competitions.
Health care technology will be in the spotlight at the LITE Center in the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Research Park near the Cajundome when the festival kicks off Wednesday.
After a break for the weekend, Innov8 winds down April 30 with a “Steampunk and Makers Ball” at the former Trynd restaurant on East Vermilion Street. In between are 50 to 60 hours of the latest in how to embrace innovation to think, act and build a business or process creatively.
Most programs will be held at UL-Lafayette’s Research Park area or in downtown Lafayette.
“Innov8 is a festival of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship,” said festival Co-Chairman Chris Allain, offering the oft-cited description of a festival whose purpose has been difficult to put into words since its inaugural event in 2012.
Innov8 officials still struggle with its description, and reach deep to describe Innov8 successes.
“We’re really very young. This is not an endeavor that’s going to pay huge dividends in a year or two or three,” Allain said.
This year there’s a scheduling twist: Instead of being held the week before and during the first few days of Festival International de Louisiane, Innov8 will begin the same day as Lafayette’s venerable, most well-known festival. In its 28th year, Festival International also starts Wednesday. It ends Sunday evening.
Allain said the schedule change was initially made because Easter weekend this year occurred during the week before Festival International. Next year and beyond, he said, Innov8 likely will remain attached to its older, more successful cousin.
This year Innov8 Lafayette has a lineup of events and speakers that eclipses the previous two years, Allain said.
For instance, author Steven Berlin Johnson will be guest speaker at the Innov8 Awards luncheon April 29 in the Cajundome Festival Ballroom.
Allain compared Johnson with a young Malcolm Gladwell, who commands well into six figures for a speaking engagement. Johnson didn’t cost Innov8 as much as that, but it wasn’t cheap.
“We’re not releasing the figure, but we’re spending a fortune,” he said.
Johnson’s books include the bestselling “Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation.”
Allain said the community would be well served by taking advantage of the opportunity to hear Johnson.
“This is world-class talent,” Allain said.
Other events popular in Innov8’s first two festivals include The Vault, where entrepreneurs with ideas or products make a sales pitch to deep-pocketed business executives, and CajunCodeFest, which presents hours of seminars and computer code writing for the health care industry.
Innov8 does take a break on Saturday and Sunday, giving “Friends of Innov8” VIP suite passes at Festival International.
Allain said Innov8 is not trying to compete with Festival International. Rather, he said, Innov8 “brings this other layer of events that are designed to attract a different crowd, who might also want to participate in Festival.”
“They’re busy. We’re not bothering them,” he said. “We’re not an official partner, per se, but we expect that to be how we describe ourselves one day,” Allain said.
Festival International officials did not answer office phones on Tuesday, and could not be reached for comment.