Photos: Opening day of Lafayette's Festivals Acadiens featured music, food, dancing _lowres

Advocate Photo by LEE CELANO - Members of the Basile Mardi Gras Association dance during a "Tintamarre" procession on the opening day of Festivals Acadiens et Creoles in Lafayette Friday, Oct. 9, 2015. A "Tintamarre" is an Acadian tradition of marching through one's community making noise with improvised instruments and other noisemakers.

For years, Festivals Acadiens et Créoles, scheduled for Oct. 11-13, has been asking attendees to leave their ice chests at home and purchase beverages from vendors at Girard Park to financially support the festival.

After seeing beverage sales decline for several years in a row, the festival plans to enforce that ice chest policy for 2019.

“While ice chests can often be seen throughout the park, much of the problem lies with those setting up tents along the perimeter,” said Pat Mould, cive president of programming and development . “We appreciate our loyal tent-goers, but if they bring ice chests full of drinks from home and even food, then they are not doing their part to support this cultural event.”

There is a misconception that because Festivals Acadiens et Créoles is free to attend, it is also free to put on. The festival rents Girard Park for the weekend, so while it is a public park and a public festival, the venue is not free. A nonprofit organization, Festivals Acadiens profits from the sale of beverages during festival weekend. Every soft drink or beer that someone brings from home means less money going to support the musicians on stage and the local organizations that are part of the festival's five-pronged philanthropic mission, Mould said.

“We say this festival is free, but it's really not,” says Mould. “We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars putting on this event. That is why it is so critical for people to leave their ice chests at home, because beverages is how we make the bulk of our funding.”

For 2019, the festival will be policing ice chests and asking festival-goers to return them to their vehicles if they do bring them in. A new Village des Tentes program is also requesting those wanting to set up a tent sign up to become a Festival Friend first. That will serve as their registration to set up a 10-by-10 tent, with setup being first-come, first-served starting at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8, in Girard Park. The festival is not responsible for any tents left in the park overnight on Sunday, Oct. 13.

“Our Festival Friend levels start at just $30, so it's not a big financial contribution,” says Mould. “We are just asking that tent-goers show their support in some way, and that first level even gets them an Official Pin. Of course, we hope those who have enjoyed our festival for many years will sign up at higher levels, which go all the way up to $1,000."

To sign up to be a Festival Friend and register your tent, go to www.festivalsacadiens.com/info/volunteer-sponsor/. Those with questions about these new policies can email info@festivalsacadiens.com.

Other items prohibited from the festival include pets, open containers, food, glass, skateboards and RVs.