MONCTON, New Brunswick — Louisiana and its Cajuns put their food, music and culture on display in a grand way Friday with the opening of the Louisiana Pavilion for Congrès Mondial Acadien 2019.
Randy Menard of Youngsville was up early in nearby Shediac, New Brunswick, cooking 26 pounds of pork and sausage and more than 17 pounds of rice in a cast iron pot outdoors over a propane burner, with help from Bryan "Bruneaux" Miller of Iota and Michael Vincent of Baton Rouge. The final product: enough jambalaya to feed 140 people.
Friday afternoon, outside the Louisiana Pavilion tent, Miller and his son, musician Blake Miller, dished out helpings of the jambalaya and boudin Bruneaux Miller made from scratch the day before in Shediac. Blake Miller will be showcasing Acadian music during the Congrès Mondial Acadien in Moncton.
Menard and other board members of Louisiane-Acadie Inc., and some of their spouses, are volunteering their energy to showcase Louisiana's Acadians at the Congrès.
"It's a passion to keep the culture and language of our ancestors alive," he said.
After a ceremony next to Moncton City Hall opening a new venue for Congrès called Extreme Frontier, Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser and Les Jeunes Cadjins de La Louisiane band led revelers to the Louisiana Pavilion. There, Nungesser and Robert Gauvin, deputy premier of New Brunswick, minister of tourism, heritage, and culture and minister for La Francophonie, signed a plan of action to continue the exchange of tourism, education and economic development.
The Lt. Governor's Office, the highest tourism office in the state, is sponsoring the Louisiana Pavilion with Louisiana CODOFIL.
The Maritime provinces of Canada — New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island — where the Acadians were exiled by the British from 1755-1764, have a great deal to offer Louisianans, Nungesser said.
"The people are incredibly warm here," he said. "That doesn't happen everywhere in the world."
Except, perhaps, in South Louisiana.
Edgar Babineau of Grande-Digue, New Brunswick, with his wife, Dianne, and brother Gilles, was one of the first to visit the Louisiana Pavilion Friday. He's a big fan of the state.
"I've been to Louisiana seven times, " Babineau said. "The Cajun people are so nice. I love the Cajun people and the food and the music, too."
Claudette Theriault of Prince Edward Island, Canada, chairperson of the organizing committee of Congrès Mondial Acadien 2019, said it's important for Louisiana's Cajuns to participate in the Acadian Congress every five years because they're from the same family, share the same ancestors.
"It's about finding new cousins, lost cousins," she said. "We all have that in our genes, the love for our music, the love for food, our identity."
On a trip to Lake Charles to promote the Congrès, Theriault compared her family tree with a man she met and found out they're fifth cousins.
"This is what it's all about," she said.