Larry Adamson, of Nashville, Tenn., said he was playing golf with some of his musician buddies Thursday when one of them mentioned a Southern Louisiana festival with a swamp pop lineup.
Adamson, who’s been a fan of the musical genre since the 1950s, said he went home that night, looked up the festival’s information and he and his wife started packing.
“Well, 575 miles later, we’re here in … where are we? Gonzales,” Adamson said Saturday. “The people here are just so friendly, and man, do they like to dance. We’re having a great time.”
Adamson was enjoying the food and music of the annual Swamp Pop Music Festival held this weekend in the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center.
The festival brings in large crowds with a combination of good food, music and attractions, and it’s all for a good cause: raising awareness of cystic fibrosis.
Proceeds from the two-day festival benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, which supports vital research to find a cure for the chronic disease.
“Research of Cystic Fibrosis is not governmentally funded, so all the money for finding a cure comes from fundraising events like this,” said festival committee member Amy Tantillo. “It’s amazing to see how the community has embraced it, and how much support we receive.”
While the rain might have shut down the classic car show outside the Expo Center, inside the crowd of thousands was dry and in high spirits as couples took to the dance floor in droves.
The swamp pop music that filled the room is a genre that was popular in the late 1950s, mixing Cajun, Creole, rhythm and blues and rock ’n’ roll together for a unique sound.
Laura and Pete Leonard, of Pointe Coupee, were moving flawlessly across the dance floor Saturday to the music of the Kenny Cornett & Killin Time band.
Laura Leonard said she met her dance partner at The Lighthouse dance hall on False River more than 50 years ago when she was just 15 years old.
“And we’ve been dancing together ever since,” she said.
The pair attends the Swamp Pop festival every year, where the music played brings back memories of those early years, Laura Leonard said.
The festival is a highly anticipated event in the community, and regularly sells out of tickets, Tantillo said.
It’s the largest event that the Expo Center holds, bringing in more than 6,000 attendees, she said.
An appearance by the stars of the hit TV show “Swamp People” attracted quite a crowd Saturday afternoon, which only grew as crowd-pleaser Van Broussard took the stage.
It’s a far cry from the festival’s humble beginnings as a grandfather’s grass-roots effort to raise awareness and money for research of his baby granddaughter’s disease.
That’s how the festival got its start, said Sarah Eastridge, 13, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when she was 4 months old.
Her grandfather, along with swamp pop musician Cody Marchland, organized the first festival that following summer, and it quickly grew into the wildly popular attraction it is today.
“It feels good that we’re getting so close to a cure, and this (festival) helped that,” Eastridge said.
The festival raises about $100,000 each year for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, said Erin Achberger, executive director of the Baton Rouge chapter of the foundation.
Through the help of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, medical researchers were able to make breakthrough developments in treatment of the disease earlier this year, Achberger said.
These developments continue to extend and improve the lives of those living with the disease, she said.
Bailey Hathaway, 13, who has cystic fibrosis, said she’s happy the festival is there to raise awareness of her disease, which affects about 30,000 people nationwide.
But there is still much work to be done.
“Not many people know about it, and they don’t understand it,” Hathaway said.
Her mother, Donna Hathaway, agreed, adding most people “don’t realize what these kids go through.”
“If you look at her, she looks healthy,” she said of her daughter. “But she goes through about 50 times more in a day than we do.”
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For ways to donate, visit http://www.swamppopmusicfest.com/Donate.php.