Monday, April 18, 2016

Name's changed and content expanded — this week we're heading to Lafayette for Festival International

            I’ve made a couple of changes here at Weird South, mainly our title. Although I will swear there is always something weird going on in the South, I wanted to branch out and spotlight the many wild things happening as well.
            The blog has been re-christened “Weird, Wacky and Wild South.” How's that for covering all bases?
            I travel the South on a regular basis as a food and travel writer — it’s my niche and I love it — so I will be spotlighting all kinds of weird, wacky and wild things going on. And to be honest, when I’m wearing my travel writer hat on assignment, I see so many awesome things I want to write about and they are not always weird, so this gives me an opportunity to fill up my blog pages more often. Which makes me very happy.

            So what will I be writing about?
            Festivals devoted to strange things, such as the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival where you can view crawfish races in addition to eating really well and listening to outstanding music.
            Austin’s Museum of the Weird because, as they say, “Keep Austin Weird!”
            A giant peanut in Plains, Georgia, dedicated to a former president.
            Worm charming in northern Florida. Yes, you heard right.

            This week I’m going to discuss one of my greatest loves — Festival International de Louisiane in Lafayette, Louisiana, North America’s largest free franchophone festival which celebrates its 30th year in 2016. I heard about this festival for years but, being from New Orleans, would attend the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival instead, held on the same weekend. When I moved to Baton Rouge to work at the newspaper there, I finally got over to Lafayette and have been hooked ever since.
            Here’s how it works and what’s special about this unique event.
            Festival International was created in 1986 to celebrate the region’s French cultural heritage but also the influences of African, Caribbean and Hispanic cultures. Bands visit from all over the Francophone world, including the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and Europe, the French-speaking areas of Asia and various provinces of Canada, as well as artists hailing from the United States and, of course, Louisiana.
            The festival is held the last full week of April — this year April 20-24 — which is also the first week of Jazz Fest in New Orleans. The coordination of festivals allows foreign bands to afford to travel to Louisiana, playing one festival one weekend and the other the next.
            As for Lafayette’s Festival International de Louisiane, there are five stages throughout downtown Lafayette with all the music free! In addition, there’s arts and crafts, food and special events such as cooking demonstrations, theatrical performances, cultural discussions and the Courir du Festival 5K Run.
            Want a taste of what’s being offered this year? Check out the festival’s YouTube video of visiting artists. Also, the Lafayette Convention and Visitor’s Commission has been spotlighting “30 Years of Festival,” a retrospective by Lafayette photographer Phillip Gould.
             And when you go, be sure and greet others by saying, "Happy Festival" or "Bonne Fete de Festival." It's what we do.
             For a complete lineup, information on other events and to create your own schedule, visit the Festival International website:

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