Lafayette will turn a richer shade of green over the St. Patrick’s Day weekend. The Celtic Bayou Festival celebrates its third year Friday and Saturday at Warehouse 535, 535 Garfield St.
Lafayette is famous for its appreciation of food, music and sense of community, said festival co-founders Tony and Sheila Davoren. This cultural camaraderie, as well as the intertwined roots of Celtic and Cajun music, makes the festival so special.
“It feels great to make our third year,” Tony Davoren said. “It’s moving forward. The first year was kind of a novelty. The second year we were getting our feet. With our third year and the tricentennial in New Orleans, we have decided to dig into our Cajun-Celtic roots more."
The two-day event features equal parts laissez le bon temp roulez and ceol agus craic (Gaelic for music and fun). Doors open at 6 p.m. Friday, and the evening will feature a crawfish boil, Irish beer, dancing from the Ryan School of Irish Dance, and music from Celjun and The Here & Now.
On Saturday, the festival begins with a pub crawl. Those interested should meet at 9:30 a.m. at Warehouse 535 to depart for downtown Lafayette. The festival officially opens at 11:45 a.m. Saturday with a Guinness stout cook-off, Bailey’s bake-off and family-friendly fun like music workshops, face painting and storytelling.
Saturday's musical performers include the BeauSoleil Quartet, Paul Brock & Dennis Carey, and Poguetry with Spider Stacy and Lost Bayou Ramblers. That musical menu is a big part of the festival celebration because it exemplifies the links between Celtic and Cajun cultures, festival founders said.
“Celtic and Acadian cultures share unique joie de vivre,” Tony Davoren said. “In Ireland, Canada, Scotland, France — and most definitely down here in Louisiana— that joy of life really comes out in music and dancing. We want to nurture and celebrate those connections.”
Lost Bayou Ramblers’ collaboration with Spider Stacy is one example of the Cajun-Celtic connection. Fresh off a Grammy win for its album "Kalenda," Lost Bayou Ramblers has always approached playing Cajun music for a broader, “world-wide audience,” fiddler/singer Louis Michot said. When the group started working with Spider Stacy, the collaboration was a natural fit.
At events like the Celtic Bayou Festival, Michot sees the natural connection in a larger way. He also noted that both cultures can learn from each other. In those ways, he thinks the event only adds value to the Acadiana region.
“This festival gives the residents of Acadiana an authentic experience of Irish music and authentic Irish culture,” Michot said.
Irish-born fiddler Niamh Fahy from The Here & Now echoed Michot’s sentiments. Fahy said Ireland’s powerful sense of community finds its reflection in Cajun culture.
“With Irish and Cajun music, it’s the sense of history and community that resonates with me the most,” Fahy said. “In today’s social media age, it sometimes feels that we are disconnected from one and other, but traditional music bridges that gap.”
The sense of mutual community also can be seen in the growing local support for the festival, said Tony Davoren.
“The festival wouldn’t exist without local support,” he said. “Many Cajuns have Irish roots or Irish ancestry. This year, we are focusing on the Celtic-Cajun vibe, but we want this festival to be inclusive. We want this to be a lynch-pin in Louisiana for all the different kinds of Celtic music.
"Neither Cajun or Celtic music exists on an island — we are all connected. There is no better place to showcase these connections than right here in Lafayette.”
Celtic Bayou Festival
WHEN: 6 p.m. Friday; 11:45 a.m. Saturday. Those interested in Saturday's Green Mile pub crawl should meet on festival grounds at 9:30 a.m. to depart for downtown Lafayette at 10 a.m.
WHERE: Warehouse 535, 535 Garfield St., Lafayette
COST: $10 Friday pass; $15 Saturday pass; $20 weekend pass; $100 VIP festival pass; children ages 12 and under get in free. Pub Crawl tickets are $5.