Save the date for the 40th anniversary of Festivals Acadiens et Creoles in South Louisiana.
Originating as a Tribute to Cajun Music concert in Lafayette in 1974, Festivals Acadiens et Creoles is deservedly honoring its own 40-year evolution this year, along with two other anniversaries significant to its founding. While Festivals Acadiens observes its 40th, the first Cajun music performance by Dewey Balfa, Gladdie Thibodeaux and Vinesse LeJeune at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival was 50 years ago, and John and Alan Lomax’s Louisiana fieldwork trip marks its 80th anniversary.
In honor of the occasion, Festivals Acadiens is bringing back some age-old favorites and introducing a variety of new — this year only — special anniversary events that occur before the festival’s opening night on October 10.
Anniversary festivities begin October 9 with the “Festivals Acadiens et Creoles, Dewey Balfa at Newport and Alan Lomax in Louisiana Symposium.” Held on campus at UL Lafayette in Hamilton Hall, the event is a full day of speeches and discussion panels delving into all things festival, including its history, academic and journalistic perspectives and reflections from musicians and special guest and NPR host of “American Routes” Nick Spitzer.
That evening, a concert titled “From Field to Stage: Songs from the Lomax Collection” will continue the celebration on campus at Angelle Hall. In 1934, John Lomax, then curator for the Library of Congress’s Archive of American Folk Song, took his 18-year-old son Alan into the heart of Louisiana through New Iberia, Avery Island, Lafayette and smaller places along the way. The father and son recorded the music they heard in the bayous, swamps, front porches and dancehalls, leaving a legacy that can now be studied by today’s Cajun musicians. The concert will feature Beausoleil avec Michael Doucet, Jeffrey Broussard & Family, Feufollet with special guest Kristi Guillory, Blake Miller, Megan Brown, Joel Savoy, Josh Caffery and Ashely Hayes presenting songs from the Library of Congress recorded by the Lomaxes.
In addition to these events, the Paul & LuLu Hilliard University Art Museum is exhibiting the “Visions of Tradition Exhibit: 40 Years of Festivals Acadiens et Créoles Art” in the A. Hays Town Home. The exhibit opened September 19 and will remain up through October 13, with different rooms showcasing photography and poster designs from festivals past. Some of the posters even go far enough back to the original Tribute to Cajun Music, and rooms contain a mixture of photography depicting various musicians and performances throughout the years, while others display Festival goers enjoying themselves despite what Mother Nature had in store weatherwise that year.
This year’s poster features art by Earl Hebert, who was a lover of Cajun and Creole music, food and culture. His rendition of the festival displays iconic images from past years, including musicians, dancers, food vendors, crafts persons, the crowd and even the trees. A pin and a variety of other anniversary merchandise will also be on sale, including a book of historic photos, CD of archival songs from the Lomax collection along with live versions recorded at the festival over the years, and a postcard book of past festival posters.
The festival itself kicks off Friday, October 10, with the Official Cutting of the Boudin and tributes to Cajun music legends the Balfa brotherhood and Zydeco king Clifton Chenier. Scene D’Anniversaire is a new stage that will be erected near the University Art Museum just for the 40th anniversary celebration. Putting the festival’s accumulated history on display, programming features everything from “The Legacy of Rockin’ Dopsie” to “Louisiana Festivals: A New Kind of House Dance” and “Forty Years of Festival Memories.”
The usual festival stages and venues will all return, such as Scène Ma Louisiane (festival’s oldest stage), Scène Mon Héritage, Salle de Danse or the dancehall tent, Scene Atelier or the workshop stage, Jam Ca! (Jam That!), La Place des Petits and even a sports tent for those who can’t miss the game. The Bayou Food Festival, with everything from crawfish enchiladas to beignets, Culture sur la Table cooking demos, the Louisiana Crafts Fair and a Kiosque des Auteurs for booksignings round out the event.
Photo Credits: Featured photo by David Simpson/LSUE; other photos by Ali Cortez.
For more information and a full list of events, visit the festival website. The symposium, exhibit and festival are all free. The symposium will be held from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., and doors for the concert open at 6 p.m. with the show beginning at 7:30 p.m. General admission for the concert is $10 in advance and $15 at the door. For students, it is $8 in advance and $10 at the door with a valid student ID.