● By Aimee Cormier
By Amanda Jean Harris / Submitted Photos
Fridays beginning March 11
Lafayette’s beloved free, live music series kicks off March 11 in Downtown Lafayette at Parc International with a series of stellar acts. While the full lineup has yet to be released, organizers tell us the first performance will be with one of “Acadiana’s own and favorite bands at Parc International.”
“You can expect some of the spring favorites from years past, but this year, we’re going to see some new faces, some Grammy nominated faces and some oldie but goodie faces. Plus, maybe a big name or two,” says Kate Durio, Director of Marketing & Events for Downtown Lafayette.
Celtic Bayou Festival
March 11 – 12
Freetown in Lafayette
Cajun and Celtic aren’t two terms heard often together. But, it’s just the mash up that organizers hope makes the extraordinarily unique Celtic Bayou fest a success.
The family-friendly event aims to celebrate the Celtic culture in the first traditional and cultural Irish Festival in Lafayette. It’s a weekend of the best in traditional Celtic music and entertainment. According to organizers the overall aim “focuses on preserving and celebrating all aspects of Irish, Irish American and other Celtic cultures while instilling an appreciation of this heritage in current and future generations.”
This year marks the inaugural festival with future plan to host an Irish parade. It’s a true combo of Irish and traditional local specialties with events like an Irish Lenten crawfish boil, Guinness cook off, Irish storytelling puppet show for the kids and a genealogy tent for Acadiana’s festival goers to trace their Celtic Roots. Louisiana Celtic Connection is behind the new festival.
Acadian Memorial Heritage Festival and Wooden Boat Congres
March 19, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Acadian Memorial, 121 South New Market St., St. Martinville
The Acadian Memorial Foundation celebrates a decade of the one-of-a-kind Acadian Memorial Heritage Festival and Wooden Boat Congres that includes food, music, arts and crafts, theater, demos and workshops at Evangeline Oak Park on Bayou Teche in Downtown St. Martinville along with an apt homage to the arrival of the Acadians by boat.
“The Acadians arrived by boat, so it is only fitting that the day begins with a parade of wooden boats, similar to those that might have been used by the Acadians,” according to organizers.
This year the families of honor include Madame and Monsieur Bateau along with members of the Gravois and Babineaux families.
“Welcoming them to the banks of the Teche will be members of Louisiana native American tribes, as well as la Compagnie Franche Troupe de la Marine, the royal French peacekeeping force in North America. Warning: bring your earplugs; the royal navy’s canon will be announcing the beginning and the end of the Festival and lunch at noon. It wouldn’t be an Acadian festival without French.”
The day may reflect the past, but no doubt there’s something for everyone presently — think food like gumbo, fried fish, jambalaya and cracklin demonstrations starting at the opening of the festival and continuing all day.
In addition to the boat parade there will be boats on display as well as an antique car exhibit and live music from Chere Mom Cajun Family Band of Zachary, Louisiana. Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site will be on hand to explain the traditional life of trappers on the Bayou Teche, including children’s games before an afternoon a puppet show. Egg paquer-ing is on the agenda thanks to the festival’s close proximity to Easter.
Laotian New Year Celebration
March 24 – 27
Those from Laos get a taste of home this Easter weekend while those in the community get a glimpse of Laotian life.
Each year Lagnexang Village in Broussard is home to a near year celebration that is a serious party. The three-day festival includes, per organizers, “live music, a beauty pageant, parades, sand castles building, kids activities and several vendors selling clothes, jewelry, music and food from Southeast Asia.
Scott Boudin Festival
April 1 – 3
Municipal Grounds of Scott
The Scott Boudin Festival is that joyful occasion to try a bevy of boudin without any guilt or having to travel to multiple places. Celebrating the beloved Cajun food, the Scott Boudin Festival includes more than just eats.
“Scott is a community rich in Cajun heritage and our festival celebrates the spirit of that heritage. Boudin is a unique Cajun specialty that’s familiar recipe has been passed down from one generation to the next. It’s basically a combination of rice, a special blend of seasonings and traditionally, pork, but you may also find Boudin made with shrimp, crawfish or even some alligator, and rolled up in sausage casing,” according to organizers.
In addition to boudin, there will be vendors serving a lineup of other Cajun foods while a line up of killer music keeps the party going. Among the performers: Keith Frank and Lil Nate, the rich “Zydecajun” sounds of Wayne Toups and the funky 80’s beat of Bag of Donuts.
Cajun Hot Sauce Festival
April 8 – 10
SugArena, New Iberia
The hottest festival around celebrates the region’s most beloved condiment — hot sauce — at SugArena with three days of hot eats and even hotter music. The gates open at 6 p.m. Friday with Mike Dean Band and close out with Cheeweez before Saturdays hot sauce competition with categories including: habanero, jalapeno, fruit, Caribbean style, cayenne, La. style and specialty.
The Hot Sauce Festival also includes a competition for the best label and a People’s Choice Award. A jambalaya cook off takes place at lunchtime on Sunday and a carnival midway on the Festival ground will be filled with rides.
Dewey Balfa Cajun and Creole Heritage Week
April 9 – 14
Vermilionville Living History and Folklife Park
Balfa Week is more than a festival. By the week’s end, participants are taught by dance and music experts with intensive classes of all levels of fiddle, accordion, guitar and vocals; afternoon lagniappe sessions on those topics and more including dance and cuisine.
Balfa Week also includes daily featured artists, songs-and-stories sessions and evening dances with top Cajun and Creole bands. Participants can join classes full time or in parts.
“Full-time participants have exclusive access to our schedule of one-on-one sessions with our instructors, and full-timers also have exclusive access to our famed Band Lab program and our Evening Instrument Check-In Service,” according to organizers. “And now we’ve added a little lagniappe: Our one-on-one sessions scheduling process will follow the order in which full-time participants register, so if you’d like the best possible selection of one-on-one sessions, you’ll want to register as soon as you can.”
Balfa Week is brought by Louisiana Folk Roots.
Bayou Teche Black Bear Festival
April 15 – 17
Downtown Historic Franklin
Franklin celebrates a dozen years of their beloved festival in the heart of St. Mary Parish along the banks of the Bayou Teche.
“The area has a rich natural heritage, with a bountiful list of species readily available for the wildlife fancier. Among those is the Louisiana black bear,” organizers says. “The mission of the bear festival is to educate the citizens of St. Mary Parish and the surrounding area about the Louisiana black bear, a species listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as “threatened” under the guidelines of the Endangered Species Act.”
In addition to raising awareness for the black bear, festivalgoers can enjoy the typical festival fare as well as live music and Cajun food. But, the festival organizers don’t stop there. The festival includes “field trips, educational exhibits and children’s activities relating to bears and the many other natural resources found in South Louisiana.”
Acadiana Dragon Boat Festival
A festival that’s not centered around food and music is hard to imagine in South Louisiana. In year four, The Acadiana Dragon Boat Festival does just that with great success.
“We’ve tried vendors and it doesn’t work because everyone wants to watch the races,” says Wess Robinson, president of Iberia on Tap, which hosts the event. “The racing of the competition of the teams is the focus.”
Those teams are made of 22 people in a boat paddling and playing drums down the Bayou Teche. There are typically 20 plus teams in the event in year four and this year includes a burger cook-off competition as well. An emcee, who gathers background on the teams and sponsors, narrates the event. Funds raised from the event go to help pay for a local playground.
Louisiana Hot Sauce Expo
April 16 – 17
KLFY News 10 presents the 3rd annual Louisiana Hot Sauce Expo will be held once again inside of Blackham Coliseum. The Louisiana Hot Sauce Expo is a regional event aimed to promote the artesian hot sauce industry by encouraging the use of hot sauce with cooking demonstrations and showcasing large and small hot sauce manufacturers products.
The event will have over 100 hot sauces, spicy food and arts and crafts vendors from around the nation. Returning vendors such as Cajohn’s Fiery Foods will again host the Execution Station, a sampling of six to eight increasingly hotter hot sauces with the Chief Executioner Vic Clinco. There will also be several new and exciting vendors.
The Main Stage, sponsored by Cypress Bayou Casino will hold hot sauce demonstrations by Cypress’ Executive Chef Scott McCue and television personalities from Food Network’s “The Next Food Network Star.” The stage will hold many more new events that will surely become fan favorites. Visit www.LaHotSauceFest.com for ticket prices and a full schedule of events.
“With the move to the middle of April from our event’s traditional July date, we can really give all of Acadiana a chance to taste some of the most flavorful sauces in the world and meet the people who actually create those sauces, as well,” says Dana A. Romero, founder and Chairman of the Louisiana Hot Sauce Exposition, Inc.
April 20 – 24
The world’s largest Francophone festival is headed to Lafayette again this year with another 5-day lineup of acts from around the world. Festival International de Louisiane is a community-based non-profit in Lafayette. The entire event is a free celebration of French cultural heritage in South Louisiana. It’s a combo of French, African, Caribbean and Hispanic influences.
Festival celebrates year 30 having grown from a small French-centric Lafayette festival to the largest festival of its kind in the world. Artists from Europe, Africa, Canada, the Caribbean and the Americas perform for both Acadiana festivalgoers as well as tourists from around the world.