In my on-going research of Louisiana, I have found one common thread: festivals. There are festivals for everything — strawberries, French food, rice, Catfish, Christmas. Aside from the Shreveport list in my last post, there are a few festivals around the state that are must-sees. Below is my Louisiana Festival hit list (in no particular order):
Festival International de Louisiane
Held in April in Lafayette, Louisiana
What began as a visual and performing arts festival celebrating the French cultural heritage of southern Louisiana — specifically French, African, Caribbean and Hispanic influences, now offers 100+ free concerts on six stages throughout the five-day event. There are also food vendors, street musicians, arts and crafts boutiques, cultural workshops and a world music store.
Fun fact: Francophone = “French-speaking” and this festival’s programming is 80% Francophone. I’m beginning my Rosetta Stone lessons this week.
Festivals Acadiens et Creoles
Held in October in Lafayette, Louisiana
Festivals Acadiens is a co-op of independent festivals that began in the 1970’s. The three original festivals: Tribute to Cajun Music, Bayou Food Festival and the Louisiana Native Crafts Festival have grown into a three-day event filled with the music, food and crafts of south Louisiana.
Fun fact: The festival’s Official Honky Tonk is the Blue Moon Saloon. Therefore, this is venue also on my ‘hit list’… and I’m inquiring as to how to be on the selection committee for this in 2015.
New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
Held in April / May in New Orleans, Louisiana
Jazz Fest is a 10-day cultural event, host to thousands of musicians, food vendors, and craftspeople from around the world, celebrating the indigenous music and culture of New Orleans and Louisiana. Past performers have included Aretha Franklin, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Ella Fitzgerald, Paul Simon, Jimmy Buffett, Dave Matthews Band, and Lenny Kravitz, to name a few.
Fun fact: “Mahalia Jackson, often called the greatest gospel singer, returned to her hometown to appear at the first New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in April of 1970. While attending the Louisiana Heritage Fair in Congo Square, she and Duke Ellington, came upon the Eureka Brass Band leading a crowd of second-line revelers through the Festival grounds. George Wein, producer of the Festival, handed Ms. Jackson a microphone, she sang along with the band and joined the parade… and the spirit of Jazz Fest was born.” While I am open to joining the parade, I sincerely hope no one hands me a microphone. Ever.
Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival
Held in May in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana
The three-day festival hosts over 30 bands on three stages, world famous Cajun, Zydeco and Swamp Pop (not sure what this is, but it sounds amazing) musicians. There are crawfish races, carnival attractions and an eating contest. For those of us not participating in the contest, but still willing to eat our body weight in crawfish – they offer it prepared fried, bisque, boudin, in an etouffee, and jambalaya.
Fun fact: The festival parade honors the Crawfish Queen who represents at the Louisiana Association of Fairs and Festivals Queen of Queens Pageant. No, the queen is not an actual crawfish.
French Quarter Festival
Held in April in New Orleans, Louisiana
Over 2,000 community volunteers work together to produce the largest, free music festival in the South. The four-day event only schedules local musicians across the 20+ stages scattered throughout the French Quarter in New Orleans and features every genre: gospel, jazz, funk, classical, Cajun and Zydeco, etc.
Fun fact: The festival is home to “The World’s Largest Jazz Brunch” — I plan to order the “World Largest Bloody Mary” after spending the weekend participating in festival events.
Christmas Festival of Lights
Held in November / December in Natchitoches, Louisiana
What started as a one-day festival in 1926, has evolved into a six-week long ‘Christmas Season’ featuring over 300,00 lights and weekly fireworks displays. In addition to carriage tours through the historic district, food vendors line the downtown riverbank in the evenings offering festive eats.
Fun fact: Natchitoches is the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase Territory. And that is your history lesson of the day.
World Championship Gumbo Cook-Off
Held in October in New Iberia, Louisiana
The three-day event on Ibera’s historic Main Street features music, museum tours, and 40+ food vendors cooking anything but gumbo – until Sunday that is. The last day of the festival is dedicated to the competition where 90+ teams compete for the title of World’s Best Gumbo.
Fun fact: The competitors begin crafting their masterpieces at 6:00am. Luckily for me, the tasting doesn’t begin until 11:00am.
Louisiana Renaissance Festival
Held in November / December in Hammond, Louisiana
This five-week festival takes you back in time to the 16th century in the setting of the English “Village of Albright,” home to over 600 artisans, entertainers and educational demonstrators.
Fun fact: There are beer and whiskey tastings on select dates throughout November. This is how I will convince Clayton to go.
Bogalusa Blues & Heritage Festival
Held in September in Bogalusa, Louisiana
Started in 2012, this two-day festival features a lineup of notable Blues musicians, all taking place on two stages within Cassidy Park.
The first Bogalusa Blues & Heritage Festival attracted people from throughout Louisiana, plus Florida, Texas and other states who, a la Woodstock, smiled, laughed and danced in the daylong rain, then vowed to grab friends and return for BBHF II.