April 21, 2016 | by Heather Osbourne
Lafayette Welcomes Back Festival International

Lafayette is expected to welcome approximately 400,000 festivalgoers to the streets of downtown this week as Festival International de Louisiane‘s founders honor the festival’s visual arts component during its 30-year anniversary.

Today through Sunday, the people-packed streets of downtown Lafayette will be filled with the rhythms and melodies of some of the world’s top performing artists, aromas from local and international food vendors’ decadent dishes and lines of white-pitched tents offering unique trinkets from around the globe.

In honor of the Festival International’s anniversary, the founders offer individuals an opportunity to travel to festivals past with the “30 Years of Festival” memorabilia exhibit at the Lafayette Science Museum. The exhibit features all of the festival’s old pins, posters and artwork.

In addition, a “festival of photography retrospective” display will be shown in front of the downtown fire station and archival footage showing the last 30 years of the event will be displayed downtown.

“They really wanted to honor the visual arts component of Festival International for the anniversary, so our festival founders have been working really hard to put together those projects for us,” said April Corville, festival marketing director.

Twenty-five different regions and countries will be represented by their performing artists, as Festival International de Louisiane welcomes back performers from the first festival in 1986. The festival will also introduce some of the world’s newest up-and-coming artists.

France’s international superstar CharlElie Couture, Martinique’s DéDé St. Prix and Australia’s The Waifs are just a few of the fan favorites returning to festival, according to Courville. In addition, first-time festival performer A-WA from Israel is expected to be a crowd favorite.

“I think this is A-WA’s third performance in the U.S.,” Courville said. “Festivalgoers will be able to see one of their very first performances at the festival. Festival International is based on bringing in artists and musicians that display the different aspects of Acadiana culture that make this area so unique.”

Attendees can visit lineup.festivalinternational.org for the full musical lineup of the week. In addition, the Festival International de Louisiane app offers individuals up-to-date information on the locations and schedules of all activities.

From Bon Creole Seafood’s crawfish spinach boats to Dairy King’s classic soft served sprinkle cones, Festival International welcomes back the food vendors that have been making generations of festivalgoers’ mouths water with delight. In addition to the traditional favorites, there will be new vendors serving dishes, such as Bombo Jerk’s Jamaican curry chicken, that are sure to tempt individuals away from the classics.

“We focus on all of the cultural components that make up the Cajun culture here in Acadiana,” Courville said. “We try to expose people in Lafayette, and also people from all over the world, to why this area is so special and what influences our culture here.”

In 1986, Festival International de Louisiane was established in an effort to boost the local economy, which was in a depression because of a tremendous downfall in the oil economy. Thiry years later, Ben Berthelot, president and CEO of the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission, said as Lafayette again faces a downturn in the oil economy, Festival International still offers Lafayette a much-needed economic boost in the form of over $49 million in overall impact each year.

“It’s a tremendous representation of a lot of the food, music and culture that we’re known for,” Berthelot said. “It’s also a great opportunity for us to get people to visit for the first time. At the same time, it’ll be a nice shot in the arm for our local hotel community since the downturn of the oil economy.”

Prospective attendees are encouraged to purchase a $10 festival pin as their “ticket,”according to Courville. The $10 purchase helps to support the continuation of Festival International de Louisiane.

“Festival was originally created to act as an economic vehicle for the city of Lafayette and it’s really important now, especially with the economy,” Courville said. “We’ve worked to diversify the economy here in Lafayette, so we’re glad this festival can be a part of the stimulus for the economy here in the town and also just to educate and enrich the lives of the community here. I think for all of the entertainment offered throughout the week, the $10 pin purchase is very reasonable.”

I’m a senior journalism major from New Orleans. I’m currently interning with the Acadiana Advocate, hoping to one day travel the world writing for National Geographic Traveler magazine. When I’m not striving to meet my daily deadline, relaxing at coffee shops, hammocking, hiking, kayaking or any other hipster activity is what fills my free time.

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