Largest crowd ever attends festival
LAFAYETTE — Music presenter Patrick Mould announced from the Heritage stage Sunday afternoon that the 38th annual Festivals Acadiens et Creoles had the largest crowd in its history.
It would be hard to argue with that, or with the wonderful weather that kept the festivalgoers comfortable during its three-day run at Girad Park. The event was chockful of music — Cajun, Creole, zydeco, Swamp Pop and the blues — across four stages, and was ably supported by ample food and beverage booths, crafts, cultural exhibits and workshops.
Christine Balfa first stepped on the stage of Festivals Acadiens et Creoles in 1984 as a guest player of the Balfa Brothers band.
Balfa took the stage a couple of different times Saturday strumming guitar and singing with Balfa Toujours and Bonsoir, Catin.
“It’s not a big adjustment,” Balfa said. “Most musicians are in multiple bands.”
“It’s more of a feeling. When I’m playing with Balfa Toujours, I’m playing with family,” said Balfa, noting that her sister, Nelda Balfa, is on t-fer (triangle) and her cousin, Courtney Granger, is on fiddle. “And when I’m playing with Bonsoir, Catin, I’m playing with my girlfriends. I’m playing with my buds. And it’s all good.”
Balfa’s gigs were Saturday, but on Sunday afternoon, she was enjoying the festival as a one of the crowd.
“From a musician’s point of view, I like to come hear what people are doing,” she said. “It’s like the who’s who in Cajun, Creole and zydeco music, and now Swamp Pop — it’s local, traditional music — and so I think it’s a fundamental thing to see who is out and about and playing.”
Balfa said when she toured more than she does now, the festival was an opportunity to catch up with fellow musicians, as well as music lovers from around the world.
“The big thing was to come back as a touring musician and to be able to see your friends you haven’t seen because you’ve been touring all year,” Balfa said.
As the music permeated through the park, people sought out the festival’s sweet treats, especially those with a local twist.
Carpe Diem’s gelato sold like hotcakes from the shade of one of the many oak trees.
The gelato-expresso bar, just a little over a year old and based in downtown, experienced its first festival as a vendor in Girard Park and introduced a couple of cool and creamy treats steeped in local flavors: Gateau Sirop (made with Steen’s Cane Syrup and spiced up a bit) and Mayhaw gelato.
Tina Baca, who just joined Carpe Diem as events coordinator, brought the idea of setting up shop at the festival to co-owners Silvia Bertolazzi and Erik Graveson.
“People eat food and then they want a dessert that is refreshing and light,” she said. “I’ve found a lot of people who came here have never heard of gelato before.”
“We’ll be back,” Bertolazzi said. “We have wonderful customers and that’s what makes it so wonderful to be here.”
At the Louisiana Folk Roots Altelier, Hadley J. Castille Family and Friends were slated to play Sunday afternoon. However, a brain tumor took Castille out of the equation, but the show went on in tribute to him and was anchored by his son, Blake Castille, and granddaughter, Jayde Williams.
“We’re basically debuting a new band,” Blake Castille said before the gig. “We’ll continue the legacy with Jayde (on fiddle, who was mentored by Hadley) and some new players. So we’re excited about that.
“This happened really quick with Hadley,” he said, adding that the tumor was found just five weeks ago and has taken its toll on his father.
“But, we’re going to carry on the tradition rather than just be a Hadley cover band, if that makes any sense. We’re going to do it for Hadley and try to represent him the best way we can.”
And judging by the appreciative crowd, the band did just fine.