The History of Festival International de Louisiane

Keith Frank & the Soileau Zydeco Family Band performing.In 1987, a group of individuals in Lafayette, Louisiana, had a rather unique idea. They decided to create a cultural heritage celebration that would, in the words of the Festival International Mission Statement, “enrich the community with a celebration of its native cultures through performing arts.”

While known for its rich Cajun culture, Louisiana has always been a melting pot of ethnicities. The creation of Festival International de Louisiane was a sincere and successful effort to bring people together in a universal appreciation of the arts, food and good times. It remains, however, an especially important event for Francophones and those connected to the French-speaking world.

No one could have imagined how successful Festival International would become over the years. With the oil bust of the 1980s, Louisiana residents recognized just how much the local economy relied on the success of the oil and gas industry. In an effort to diversify the economy and bring additional revenue into the State, Acadiana residents came together to coordinate the first Festival. The inaugural Festival was so successful it’s continued to draw visitors from near and far to the city of Lafayette during the last week of April for the last 32 years.

Since that initial festival that featured acts such as the Rwanda Master Drummers and Assemblee du Pays Normand from France, musical legends such as John Mayall and Dr. John have graced the festival’s stages alongside popular artists like Hunter Hayes and Los Lobos.

In 2016, some estimates put the festival’s attendance at 400,000 people. Festival International de Louisiane has been honored as the “Best World Music Festival” by About.com and attracts media coverage from the United States, France, Canada and Africa.

Festival International de Louisiane takes place each year during the last full weekend of April and turns downtown Lafayette into a delightful sensory experience that you’ll remember for years to come.

A Cultural Gathering

Here in Louisiana, culture is something we honor and value. When you visit cities such as Lafayette, you’ll notice efforts to preserve our Cajun way of life. It’s reflected in the food we eat, the churches we attend, the music we listen to and even in the architecture of our houses. The same can be said for the Creole and Native American peoples who live here. Heritage is important.

When you visit Festival International, the celebration of what makes cultures beautiful and unique is on full display. As such, it is a perfect environment to appreciate the heritage of people on many different continents. For five days you can travel the world without leaving Lafayette, and you don’t even need a passport.

Drummers from Japan, framed by oak and cypress trees, pound out ancient rhythms. Stilt walkers from Belgium roam the streets and bring smiles to the faces of children. West African brass ensembles play late into the night. Local Cajun fiddlers take everyone back to Lafayette’s roots.

The great thing about bringing all of these world elements together in our little South Louisiana city is that those who come here begin to truly understand how connected we are as human beings. At Festival International de Louisiane it becomes apparent that the things that divide us are always overcome by the things we have in common.

Food, Music and Art

There is so much great food available at Festival International de Louisiane, you’ll probably need all week to appreciate it. We know a thing or two about cooking in Cajun Country, and you’ll find all the staples of our local diet available. Crawfish boils, big pots of red beans and rice and local seafood is on the menu.

Of course, you’ll also be able to sample Creole dishes and French pastries. Spain and Africa also contribute to the culinary influences you’ll encounter at Festival International. From food trucks to craft beer gardens, each year new vendors add flavor to the festival.

Those who appreciate art will love the offerings presented at the Hilliard University Art Museum, Cite des Arts and other venues throughout the city. There are photographic retrospectives, poster exhibits, theatre performances and more throughout the entire week.

Music is big each year at Festival International de Louisiane, of course, and 2017 will bring together some amazing groups from all over the world. Notable acts include the GuGu Drum Group from Shanghai, Delhi to Dublin and a host of local favorites. Four different stages feature performances from afternoon until late in the evening.

The Importance of Festival International de Louisiane

Festival International de Louisiane is of great importance to Lafayette and the entire state. Each year, millions of dollars are contributed to the local economy. This money helps to keep our local business community strong and allows the festival to grow each year.

More importantly, Festival International is an opportunity for Louisiana to express its appreciation for all cultures. It is a chance for us to show the world that we embrace inclusion. Throughout the years, we’ve also been blessed to bring attention to important issues in the world. Past festivals have featured artists from Rwanda, South Africa and other areas where artistic expression has been repressed.

Most of us here would agree that exposing ourselves to other cultures with a willingness to understand and appreciate their beauty is an important key to sustaining our world. Our own ancestors came to Louisiana in exile, so we know the heavy price that is often paid when cultures do not reach out to one another in goodwill.

We’re excited to welcome friends and family from near and far as they travel to Lafayette for their own Festival International de Louisiane experience. While not everyone will be able to make it down south to experience this celebration of arts, food and good times, you can still get a taste of Louisiana culture shipped straight to your door. With Cajun Grocer, you can make your own variation of Festival foods without having to leave your house!

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