This year marks Festival International de Louisiane’s 30th year celebrating the Acadiana spirit, Francophone culture, and arts. It highlights incredible growth rooted in artistic vision as well as economic expansion and cooperation among thousands of volunteers, community leaders, business enterprises, employers, artists, and artisans. All have committed their talents and abilities to making 2016’s five-day festival both more international and community-focused than ever.
Thirty Years of Growth
The year was 1985. Prices for oil and gas slumped, driving Acadiana and its surrounding region into a state of economic decline. Once lively areas of Lafayette went quiet as businesses and residents alike struggled to endure the financial hit of the downturn. After returning from several expeditions abroad, Founding Festival President Herman Mhire saw the opportunity to revive the heart of Acadiana. He believed that “staging a world-class arts festival in Lafayette had the potential to lift our community’s spirits, to inspire and educate our citizens, and serve as an economic development vehicle aimed at strengthening cultural tourism.”
Thirty years later, the region has entered into another downturn. Fortunately, over the last few decades, economic interests in the city have diversified. Lafayette has since become a thriving hub for the arts and technology, providing economic development in a number of new sectors. Since its inception in 1986, Festival has flourished, increasing its positive economic impact by nearly $10 million per decade:
In 2007, more than 350,000 visitors poured into Lafayette, representing at least 40 different states and 35 countries.
In 2008, many anticipated Festival’s economic footprint might approach $20 million, but $22 million surpassed expectations for the economic return.
In 2013, at least 400,000 visitors attended the 5-day event, yielding $30 million.
In addition to positively impacting the economy, Festival International has become a premier presenter of eclectic world musicians and performances in the United States. The festival has also served as inspiration to many local individuals and artists following their artistic passions. Lafayette native Taylor Guarisco, vocalist and guitarist for GIVERS, explains, “Festival International has continuously brought us music that inspires us in such a huge way. We definitely have always regarded Festival as part of our genesis and creation."
Festival International 2016
This year, downtown Lafayette and up to eight venues will host top artists and performers from 25 regions and countries—as well as Acadiana’s own local talent. Attendees are expected to come from far and wide to sample our unique food, music, crafts, fine art and entertainment. Ben Berthelot, Executive Director of the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission (LCVC), expresses just how much a part of Acadiana’s identity Festival has become:
“Our Festivals are a great reflection of the joie de vivre we are known for here in Acadiana and a great showcase of the food, music and culture that have helped place us on the map as a truly unique destination.”
Cultural identity extends well beyond the stage, however. Our historical sites and museums, Southern landscapes and architecture, resident galleries, specialty shops, and restaurants are all reasons why people attend year after year, often making it a homecoming for the region. As Berthelot says, “We know that once we can get them to visit, we will have them hooked . . .”
One Acadiana Festival International Events
While Festival traditionally connects artists, writers, performers and promoters, One Acadiana is hosting two initiatives centered around Festival activities that focus on promoting the economic development return on investment of the “Best World Music Festival” and encouraging ex-pats to return home to opportunities in the Acadiana region:
Council Luncheon: Economic Impact of Festivals — On Wednesday, April 20, Acadiana Center for the Arts will host 1A’s April Arts & Culture Council luncheon and panel discussion focused on the economic impacts of local arts and cultural festivals on Acadiana. Panelists will include Gregg Gothreaux, President & CEO of the Lafayette Economic Development Authority; Ben Berthelot, Executive Director of LCVC; Scott Feehan, President of Festival International de Louisiane; and Barry Ancelet, President of Festivals Acadiens et Créoles. Join us by registering here.
Welcome Home Acadiana Initiative — On Saturday, April 23, from 10 a.m. to noon, Acadiana Center for the Arts will host Welcome Home Acadiana, an informal yet invaluable initiative connecting area employers with homegrown Acadiana talent returning home to attend Festival International de Louisiane. Acadiana ex-pats and potential transplants can drop by the “informal career fair” on Vermilion Street and meet potential area employers. A shareable e-vite and additional information can be found on One Acadiana’s website.
This year’s 30th anniversary highlights a return to Festival’s original purpose: to reignite the joie de vivre in all who pass through with a colorful celebration of food, music, and art from countries around the globe. Download the official Festival app here, and help us ensure that, yet again, our visitors will become “hooked not only on our food, music and culture, but also our people, who are the most hospitable and welcoming that you will find anywhere.”