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8 Ways To Get Your Festival On in Lafayette, Louisiana

There's no better way to experience Cajun and Creole culture than a festival. Here's a sampling of unique Lafayette fests you shouldn't miss.

By Brittany Anas on March 1, 2023

Music Festival in Lafayette, Louisiana
Courtesy of LafayetteTravel.com

The best introduction to Cajun and Creole culture is an interactive one, something that attendees of the annual, three-day Festivals Acadiens et Creoles in Lafayette, Louisiana, can vouch for.

It’s foot stomping and toe tapping to the sounds of the Cajun fiddle at a fais do-do (dance party). It’s moving and shaking to the Afro-Caribbean beats of zydeco music with its signature accordion and frottoir (washboard). It’s sampling étouffée and jambalaya before sinking your teeth into a fluffy beignet, the deep-fried, pillowy pastry that’s blanketed in powdered sugar. It’s shopping for crafts from local artisans.

You see, in Lafayette and surrounding Acadiana communities, festival is a verb.

Located in the heart of Cajun country, Lafayette offers locals and tourists much to celebrate with events that pay homage to everything from boudin to beer. The city’s events calendar stays busy year-round with festivals that honor the area’s rich cultural history, top-notch culinary scene and its unique soundtrack that’s a blend of Cajun and zydeco music.

Festivals Acadiens et Creoles, for instance, is one of the largest free public events in the state of Louisiana, with 50-plus zydeco and Cajun bands playing across five stages during the three-day gathering. The Bayou Food Festival and the Louisiana Crafts Fair make up the culinary and craft components of the event, which is one of the largest Cajun and Creole celebrations in the United States.

The event got its start in 1974. Over the years, there’s been many highlights, says Barry Jean Ancelet, Cajun folklorist, ethnomusicoligist, author, songwriter and founder of the festival, including the first concert that “attracted a much bigger crowd than even the most enthusiastic among us could have imagined,” he says. Other memorable moments, Ancelet says, include the time Canray Fontenot — described as “the greatest Creole Louisiana French fiddler of our time” — fell off the stage and never missed a lick playing his fiddle. Or the first time Grammy Award-winning singer Wayne Toups performed, shocking the crowd with his juiced-up renditions of Cajun music.

“Festivals are important, not only as entertainment, but also as celebrations of our culture, our identity and our connections,” Ancelet says. “Ours is an example of what I have called ‘guerilla education,’ sneaking information to people while they are being entertained.”

Read on for eight more Lafayette festivals that could be considered a rite of passage for new residents and among the many reasons Lafayette is named the No. 1 place in the world to visit in 2023 by Travel Lemming.

Krewe de Chiens at Mardi Gras in Lafayette
Courtesy of LafayetteTravel.com

Mardi Gras (February or March)

Mardi Gras is one of Southern Louisiana’s favorite celebrations. The season of merriment that precedes Lent is filled with traditions that include family-friendly parades with marching bands, bakeries and restaurants serving king cakes in the traditional Carnival colors of purple, green and gold as well as extravagant masked balls. In Lafayette, Le Festival de Mardi Gras at Cajun Field includes carnival rides and live music. In rural areas of Lafayette Parish, residents partake in “Courir de Mardi Gras” — going from door to door, singing songs, dancing and begging for ingredients to make gumbo. Once they collect enough bell peppers, chicken, sausage and other ingredients, they prepare a communal pot of gumbo for all to enjoy. 

Festival International de Louisiane in Lafayette, LA

Festival International de Louisiane (April)

Here’s a riddle: Where can you listen to an acclaimed African band while enjoying authentic Cajun, Asian or Lebanese food as beautifully costumed French stilt-walkers dance by? The answer: At the Festival International de Louisiane, which is a highly anticipated five-day cultural celebration that takes place in downtown Lafayette each year. It also happens to be the largest international music festival in the United States. A 5K “Courir du Festival” run is also a part of the festival, and when participants cross the finish line, they’re greeted with live music, food and beer.

Lafayette is also home to Latin Festival, which brings to town top acts from the Latin music world, professional dancers and authentic cuisine.

Boudin Festival (April)

Lafayette Parish is proudly home to the Boudin Capital of the World — Scott, Louisiana. This community is the epicenter of boudin through six major, home-grown boudin makers that drive visitors from across the U.S. Each year, in April, Boudin Festival goers pack the community to enjoy a family-friendly atmosphere filled with the best music South Louisiana has to offer and the best and widest variety of boudin and boudin-based dishes.

Crawfish dinner
Courtesy of LafayetteTravel.com

Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival (May)

In 1959, the Louisiana Legislature named Breaux Bridge the “Crawfish Capital of the World.” To make good on this reputation, the small city hosts a crawfish festival in honor of its favorite crustacean each May. Hungry festival-goers can enjoy crawfish a number of ways — fried, boiled, in an étouffée, bisque, boudin, pie or jambalaya, and as crawdogs. The festivities include a race in which numbered crawfish compete, a crawfish eating contest, Cajun dance lessons, cook-offs and culinary demonstrations. There’s also a crawfish royal court, including a king and queen and “little pinchers.”

Festival Acadiens et Creoles in Lafayette, La.
Courtesy of LafayetteTravel.com

Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Music Festival (September)

Four decades ago, a group of concerned citizens known as the Treasures of Opelousas feared that zydeco and Creole music was dying. So, they started a festival to celebrate the traditional “La La” — Creole French for house dance, which used instruments like the scrub board, spoons, fiddle, triangles and an accordion. The lineup of musicians includes hit makers and award-winning musicians, and the festival promotes Creole culture, food, and, of course, zydeco music.

Bayou Teche Brewing, Arnaudville, LA
LeeAnn B. Stephan

Gulf Brew (October)

You’ve been to Oktoberfest celebrations. But have you ever been to a beer festival in Cajun country, where you can stroll the street festival with beer in hand listening to live music? Gulf Brew is Louisiana’s oldest beer festival and ticket holders can sample beers from 200 or so breweries from across the country. Many local craft breweries showcase their newest beers at the festival. Gulf Brew is a fundraiser for the Acadiana Center for the Arts, which presents performances and art exhibitions year-round in downtown Lafayette and serves as the arts council for the eight-parish region.

Courtesy of LafayetteTravel.com

Boudin Cook Off & Acadiana Bacon Fest (October)

During harvest season in southeast Louisiana, a boucherie (or hog slaughter) once united the community, with every portion of the animal used. Fat was rendered into soap. Skins were fried into crisp cracklins. And leftover meat was used to make boudin sausage. The modern-day base recipe for boudin is pork, rice, seasonings and spices stuffed into an edible casing. But chefs all have their own recipes. The annual Boudin Cook Off & Bacon Fest though, determines which rendition is currently the best in Louisiana. As indicated by the name, the festival is actually two culinary events in one as it’s also the Acadiana Bacon Fest featuring a bacon eating contest.  

Southern Screen (November)

Not only can attendees sit in on film screenings at Southern Screen, watching shorts, documentaries and other feature films, but the November festival also hosts live music and podcasts and showcases screenwriting. Festival organizers want to move beyond the typical film festival and share how storytelling can be used across various forms of multimedia. As a result, the four-day event also includes sessions and panels focused on the art of storytelling. Southern Screen showcases the community’s commitment to its strong and notable cultural economy.

This article was sponsored by Lafayette Convention & Visitors Commission, Lafayette Economic Development Authority and One Acadiana

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