Festival International de Louisiane is in its 32nd year in 2018. The festival, which began in 1987, is a celebration of Acadiana and its connection to the wider Francophone vvorld. Each year, visitors come from across the United States and around the world to hear local, national, and international musical performances, take in art exhibits and street performances, and dine on some of the finest Cajun and Creole food around.
The US state of Louisiana is arguably the most culturally diverse region of the country. Originally inhabited by Native Americans, conquered and colonized by the French, taken over by the Spanish, returned to the French and eventually sold to the Americans, the state’s history is a cultural whirlwind. However, the result of all of that is a rich cultural history that includes Cajun, Creole, Spanish, French, Native American, Italian, and American culture that blend together into something entirely unique.
Louisiana is known for throwing a good party, but few of those festivals connect the spirit of Louisiana to its Old World roots like Festival International de Louisiane. Hosted annually in the southwestern city of Lafayette, Festival International is a chance for Louisiana to connect its Acadiana roots with the rest of the Francophone world that it was once a part of. Generating some $49 million (USD) in economic revenue for the city each year, this cultural showcase is one that cannot be missed! Learn about the 2018 Festival International de Louisiane in the paragraphs below.
About 2018 Festival International de Louisiane
The first year Festival International was held was 1987. Some 31 years later, the Festival is a staple of the celebration calendar in the Acadiana region of Louisiana. Each year the festival draws in musical performers from across the country and around the world. The organizing committee behind Festival International de Louisiane bills it as the largest international music and arts festival in the United States, and it is the largest non-ticked festival of its kind in the Francophone world.
An estimated 300,000 people come to Lafayette each year for the festival to enjoy the live music, listen to and participate in the workshops, view the exhibits, and take in the sights and sounds of many other forms of performance art. The 2018 Festival International was a 5-day festival taking place from 25 April to 29 April and drew visitors from 42 states and 10 countries. Musical acts from more than 20 countries performed alongside Louisiana locals to entertain the crowds .
On Wednesday 25 April, the stage came alive at Festival International with two back-to-back performances by local artists. Lost Bayou Ramblers opened the festival with a 6:30 pm performance followed by fellow locals Curley Taylor and Zydeco Trouble. The festival actually launched a week prior with the city hosting a Kick-Off Party Thursday 19 April headlined by Dwight James & The Royals.
Non-musical events started on Tuesday 24 April with Cinema viewings at the Omni Center, and art exhibits featuring works by Francis Pavy and Lynda Frese on display at the Hilliard University Art Museum. The exhibits continued into Wednesday 25 April with works from Artist Alliance – the Founding Members and Tina Girouard – Parts Known and Unknown at the Acadiana Center for the Arts.
The Music Schedule Goes Full Tilt
2018 Festival International de Louisiane kicked into high gear on Thursday with acts performing across three different stages in the city of Lafayette. The whole of downtown Lafayette turns into an outdoor amphitheater as the festival gets into its full schedule. Thursday’s performances were highlighted by official opening ceremonies at Lus Scene Internationale, which were preceded by an opening performance from Dominque Dupuis. Other acts performing on the first full night of performances included Sidi Toure, Lisa LeBlanc, The War and Treaty, Sona Jobarteh, Samantha Fish, and Brass Mimosa.
As the festival entered the weekend, more and more artists were on varying stages spread throughout the city. Friday’s lineup featured acts such as Socks in the Frying Pan, Geno Delafose & French Rockin’ Boogie, Florent Vollant w/ Shault, Frigg, TONOMONO, and Ragin’ Blues Band/ Corey Ledet, performing across five separate venues.
Saturday and Sunday featured repeat performances by many of these groups, as well as other acts ranging from Wesli, Innov Gnawa, LADAMA, and Casa Samba to Frenchaxe, Radio Zydeco, and Harmounouche on seven stages throughout the day from 9:00 am to 10:00 pm. There was, as usual, no shortage of inspiring and soul-riveting music performed at 2018 Festival International de Louisiane.
More than Just Music
As evidenced by the art exhibits taking place before and during the festival, there were also other special side events taking place during the 2018 Festival International. Among these were the street animation performances of New Natives Brass Band and Soul Express Brass Band on Jefferson Street throughout the day on 26 April. There was also a Rhythms & Roots Series taking place during the festival which celebrated local artists and performers. Also typical of Louisiana festivals, Sunday’s final day included a French Mass at St. John’s Cathedral in Lafayette as part of the official ceremonies.
Don’t Forget the Food
No celebration of Acadiana in the state of Louisiana is complete without some amazing food. Local cuisine is on full display at every Festival International de Louisiane, and the 2018 edition was no different. There were exciting newcomers and staples of the festival spread throughout the city. JD Bank Pavillion de Cuisine was a hotbed of all things local, with Fezzo’s Seafood, Steakhouse and Oyster Bar bringing classic sausage po’boys, bread pudding with rum sauce, and fried catfish to the table.
Bon Creole Seafood offered up red beans and rice with sausage, praline chicken and waffles, a crawfish po’boy, and a classic shrimp po’boy. Everything you could imagine was on the menu at the festival, from meat pies and crawfish etouffee to beignet fries, baklava, and gyro wraps.