Festivals Acadiens et Créoles: Excerpts From One Generation at a Time

Festival Goers in 1991, One Generation at a Time

Hurricane Delta and the Covid-19 pandemic have been unable to stop Festivals Acadiens et Créoles, although this year's festival will have a unique place in history as the first to be held virtually. The festival itself is a cooperative of three independent festivals: the Louisiana Native and Contemporary Crafts Festival, the Festival de Musique Acadienne, and the Bayou Food Festival. In One Generation at a Time, Barry Jean Ancelet and Philip Gould recount the history of the Festival de Musique Acadienne, stressing its power to preserve the Cajun and Creole cultures. The first excerpt below depicts the original Tribute to Cajun Music that later grew into the Festival de Musique Acadienne. The subsequent excerpts capture scenes of celebration and interesting moments in the festival’s history.

Dusty Dancers, 1991, One Generation at a Time

1974 Tribute to Cajun Music Concert

"The first Tribute to Cajun Music concert was held in Blackham Coliseum in part to prevent the audience from dancing. Dewey Balfa, who had considerable experience playing in festivals and folk music concerts by then, suggested that the audience would hear the music in a different way if they were not allowed to dance as they usually did. Several other venues were considered, including the theater in the University of Southwestern Louisiana Student Union (which seated around 350) and the Lafayette Municipal Auditorium (now the Heymann Performance Center, which seated near 3,000). The Blackham Coliseum, with a capacity of 8,400, was selected for several reasons. Based on word-of-mouth reactions leading up to the event, organizers felt increasingly confident that there would be a significant response from the community. And Blackham, which also regularly hosted USL basketball games and rodeos, would be a more familiar context for the mostly rural Cajun and Creole audience members that would likely attend. That night, an overflow crowd of nearly 12,000 packed into the coliseum, filling all bleacher seats, all additional temporary floor seats, and all available standing room only spaces, despite the best efforts of law enforcement officials and fire marshals and despite a terrible storm that raged throughout most of the afternoon and evening, causing considerable local flooding. Performers volunteered their services. No one was paid, no one received even expenses to come. This represented a remarkable investment in the concept, especially for established performers such as Clifton Chenier and Jimmy C. Newman, who could have earned considerable sums for performing elsewhere that night."

Bois Sec Ardoin, 1974, by Philip Gould, One Generation at a Time

1984 Festival De Musique Acadienne

"It turns out that this was a banner year for new introductions. This marked the first appearance for Ward Lormand’s Filé, for Bruce Daigrepont’s Bourré, and for Wayne Toups. Festival organizers were intent on showing the continuing vitality of Cajun music. All three groups electrified the crowds in different ways and were called back for encores. Ward Lormand formed his group after several years of apprenticeship in the deliberately regressive Cush-Cush. With Filé, he began to explore some of the opportunities for fusing the modern and the traditional in Cajun music. Bruce Daigrepont had discovered Cajun music at a previous festival and decided he wanted to perform the music of his heritage. With Bourré, he too began exploring the possibilities of creating within the tradition. A veteran of the young Cajun musician contests of the 1970s, Wayne Toups was just on the verge of launching his ZydeCajun experiment. He was so nervous before his set that he warmed up and tuned up without ever looking directly at the crowd. Once introduced, he started his performance still looking side-stage. When it came time to sing, he turned suddenly to face the microphone and the crowd, slipping his left hand out of the bass side of his accordion and letting the centrifugal force finish the draw on the bellows. When asked about this later, he explained that it was simply a case of nerves: “I was afraid that if I looked at that huge crowd before I had to sing, I might not be able to get my song out, so I just waited until the last second before turning to face them.” The dramatic effect of the gesture thrilled the crowd as did the rest of his performance."

Dewey Balfa and Robert Jardell, 1980s, One Generation at a Time

1993 Festival de Musique Acadienne

"This marked the first appearance by Kristi Guillory and Réveille, the Basin Brothers, and Jason Frey and the Cajun Rhythm Aces. The California Cajun Orchestra, led by Danny Poulard, paid a visit to remind the crowds of the popularity of Cajun and Creole Music among Louisiana ex-patriots living on the West Coast. Richard LeBoeuf was scheduled to perform just after a reunion of his hero and mentor Aldus Roger and his legendary Lafayette Playboys. This also marked the first festival appearance for Balfa Toujours, the group led by Dewey Balfa’s daughters Christine and Nelda. It was an emotionally charged experience for the members of the band, for the stage crew, and for the crowd as the critically and historically important Balfa name returned to the festival after a one-year hiatus following Dewey’s death in 1992. Zachary Richard also dropped in to sing a few songs between sets, including a rousing version of “Réveille.” When he first performed this musical manifesto at the second concert in 1975, the crowd wondered what it was all about. This time—the first time he performed the song in public in Louisiana since then—the crowd sang along, clear evidence that things have changed since those early years."

D.L. Menard, 1980s

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