LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – The rich Cajun and Créole culture has come a long way throughout the centuries and there is no better place to celebrate it than at Festivals Acadiens et Créoles.

The history

French colonists began to settle in Nova Scotia in 1604, where they would prosper as fishers and farmers. In 1713, Great Britain gained permanent control of Acadie (Nova Scotia), and in 1755, the Acadians, not called Cajuns, were exiled from Nova Scotia.

Despite having only a few possessions, something that did move with the Cajuns was their rich cultural heritage. A heritage that blends French, Celtic, Native American, and Scots-Irish influences and is evident in oral tradition, songs, and dances, according to the Festivals website.

While many of those exiled found new homes in France, the Caribbean, and various British colonies, many created their new homes in South Louisiana.

According to Festivals Acadiens et Créoles, by the turn of the twentieth century, several generations of Créoles and Cajuns began to move away from their French language. Especially in the approach of the First World War, as national unity outweighed regional diversity.

As World War II got underway in the 1940s, Soldiers in France found that the culture and language they were told to avoid proved to be an extremely valuable asset for interpreters and simply, to survive.

Following the end of the war, which came in 1945, returning soldiers reimmersed themselves in their own culture. Subsequently, South Louisiana began to see the reopening of Dance halls playing the comforting sounds of the culture.

With that, the culture that was once slowly fading away began to be reborn.

The evolution of Festivals Acadiens et Créoles

Following the rise of Cajun and Créole music in the 1950s and 1960s, the State of Louisiana recognized the revival of Cajun culture with the birth of the Council for the Development of French Louisiana in 1968. Among the many political and educational efforts by the Council, was the birth of the first Tribute to Cajun Music Festival in 1974, according to Festivals Acadiens et Créoles.

The festival not only celebrated Cajun music, but it portrayed the values of Cajun culture and the revival of the culture.

According to the festival’s website, 2007 marked the festival’s transition to an independent non-profit corporation and in 2008, it was officially renamed as the Festivals Acadiens et Créoles.

It started off as one stage back in the 70s now we have 5 music stages, a chef demonstration stage, two children’s areas, so a lot has changed over the decades that the festival’s been in existence

Vice President of Programming and Development Patrick Mould

Though the festival has grown and evolved through the years, one thing is for sure – it still champions cultural continuity through the performances, food, and crafts that represent the Cajun and Créole culture.

Sharing the culture has been one of the great things.

Musician Wayne Toups

The experience

At the festival, one thing you’ll immediately notice is the community’s pride and love for what the Festival celebrates.

From the smell of gumbo to the traditional music or the towering flags of Acadiana, it is clear that the once-almost-lost culture is alive and well here in Acadiana.

Perhaps the most prevalent tell that the culture is widely alive is the fact that people come from all over the country to celebrate Cajun and Creole culture.

All of our artists from all over the country come to see us. It’s kind of Louisiana themed but we have people coming from New Orleans and Tennessee and Mississippi and Texas just to come in and be Cajun for the weekend.

President of Louisiana Crafts Guild Andre Juneau

One of the reasons the festival is such a great experience is simply because it brings the community and families together. Something that Bebo, an artist from Nashville, said is what it’s all about.

For me, I find that a lot of people come out with their families and bring their kids by, and the kids get inspired they want to make stuff. And that’s what it’s about, inspire people to love god and love your neighbor.

Nashville Artist Bebo

Musician Wayne Toups also added, “I think we’re all a big family, we enjoy seeing each other when we can,” he said. “It’s full of joy.”

Get down to Festivals Acadiens

Whether you are from out of town, a new South Louisiana resident, or have lived in Acadiana for generations, join in on the self-celebration and “celebrate everything Cajun and Créole,” as Juneau said. Celebrate “how we eat, how we dance, play music. This is where you can immerse yourself completely in the culture.”

So, if you need to be anywhere this weekend, you need to be “at Girard Park, downtown, Lafayette,” as Festival of Acadien Board Member Helena Putman said.

The festival will run through Sunday, Oct. 16. More information can be found on the festival website.