Lafayette's Festival International welcomes patrons, volunteers

Festival International de Louisiane kicks into full gear Friday in Lafayette, filling downtown with music, crafts, street performers and plenty of food and drink.

The free international music festival, now its 27th year, runs through Sunday, and the lineup includes local Cajun and Zydeco music, New Orleans brass bands and dozens of international acts from a list of countries that includes Ireland, Zimbabwe, Mali, Israel, Brazil, Canada, Iran and Italy.

Reggae band The Wailers will close out this year’s festival at 5:45 p.m. on Sunday at Parc International.

The festival is expected to attract nearly 400,000 visitors to the city, festival organizers said.

“It’s obviously a tremendous event for us,” Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission Director Ben Berthelot said.

The festival began Wednesday with one stage. The music spreads to the four main stages on Friday, and two smaller stages will open on Saturday and Sunday — one at the children’s area near St. John and Vermilion streets and the other in the food court at Parc Sans Souci.

Performances are also scheduled Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the “LA Craft Biergarten” in the parking lot next to Jefferson Street Pub, 500 Jefferson St.

The Biergarten is a relatively new addition to the festival and will showcase Louisiana-made beers and mainly Louisiana music.

“It’s kind of a hangout for craft beer fans. It’s all Louisiana beers,” said Karlos Knott, with Arnaudville-based Bayou Teche Brewing, which will have representatives along with Abita Brewing Co., Covington Brewhouse, NOLA Brewing, Parish Brewing and Tin Roof Brewing.

Knott said each company will offer its beers for sale and give presentations throughout the weekend.

Tucker Sappington said the Biergarten was launched last year but is expanding this year with more food offerings and more music.

“Every year we have an evolving festival,” said Sappington, vice president of marketing for the festival’s board of directors.

Sappington said the festival is also expanding in an area where festival artists sit down for interviews about their life and work.

Those sessions will take place at the “Chat Room” near Parc de Lafayette on Jefferson Street.

Another new addition for this year’s festival is a second shuttle stop for festival-goers who park off-site at Cajun Field, which has become a popular alternative to trying to find a parking spot near downtown.

The old shuttle stop on Jefferson Street will be in service throughout the festival, and the second stop will be available Friday and Saturday at the other end of downtown at the intersection of Garfield and Buchanan streets.

Sappington said the festival is still seeking volunteers — more than 2,000 are needed over the course of the five-day event.

“Anytime you have three hours available, come and sign in,” said Suzanne Rees, co-chairwoman of the Volunteer Center. “We can use all of Lafayette.”

Volunteers can sign up any time during festival at the “volunteer center” at Lee Avenue and Jefferson Street.

For a full schedule of all music and events and a festival map, visit www.festivalinternational.com or link to The Advocate.com’s Festival Schedule.