The towns of Cajun Country hold a festival for nearly everything. Take the Giant Omelette Celebration in Abbeville. Or the Rayne Frog Festival. Or the Cracklin Festival in Port Barre. But one event might come the closest to summing Cajun country up: the Festivals Acadiens et Créoles.
Held each October in Lafayette, the Cajun capital, the Festivals cover the whole sweep of culture in the region, including its European, African and Indian roots. Since this is too much to capture in single festival, the event combines three festivals into one.
The Festival de Musique spotlights Cajun and Zydeco music, featuring the top names in those genres. The Bayou Food Festival celebrates Cajun and Creole culinary delights, such as boudin, étouffée and jambalaya. The Louisiana Craft Fair features handmade items from the Houma Indians, as well as jewelry, sculptures and furniture from area craftsmen.
The festivals emerged in the 1970s and are emblematic of the rehabilitation of Cajun culture that began at that time, from language to music to cuisine. "At the festivals, each component celebrates a different aspect of Cajun country’s culture," says Patrick Mould, a Cajun chef and one of the event’s organizers.
Situated in Girard Park, next to the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, the musical focal points of the festivals are its two performance stages and a dance hall. The event also has an intimate side, including public interviews with folk icons, music workshops, cooking demonstrations and activities for children. In a sense, the fete goes beyond Girard Park. As the great Cajun metropolis, Lafayette puts forward superior restaurants and a nightlife that is particularly spirited during the festivals.
“It gets pretty cranked up,” Mould says. “That weekend it kicks into high gear.”
Though Lafayette is a grown-up city, it remains easy to navigate. That makes Mould’s advice to visitors simple: “Just get here early and bring your dancing shoes.”
Ultimately, the Festivals Acadiens center on the people of Cajun country. They have endured major hardships over time, but have alchemized it into a welcoming joie de vivre. “The Cajuns are very kind-hearted people. They really take you into their hearts,” Mould says.
For more information, see FestivalsAcadiens.com and plan to join the fun in Lafayette.