Missy Paschke-Wood joins Festival International de Louisiane
“It’s been an illuminating couple of days and I’ve been amazed at how strong the festival is and how little they do need.” Missy Paschke-Wood, festival director
LAFAYETTE — Some of the first things Missy Paschke-Wood learned when she became the new executive director of Festival International de Louisiane: No letting the band lineup out of the bag.
And here, in Lafayette, festival isn’t an event, it’s a verb.
“Festival is something you do all year round here,” Paschke-Wood said with a laugh that comes easily for this Texas native selected to direct Lafayette’s beloved music festival, held at the end of every April in downtown Lafayette.
Paschke-Wood started the job Oct. 21 and replaces longtime director Dana Baker, who stepped down to pursue other interests.
The selection process was extensive with several capable candidates, but Paschke-Wood stood out and was a unanimous choice for the board, said Craig Minnick, Festival International board president.
“Right off the bat, you can just tell that she has that festival spirit,” Minnick said.
“That festival spirit is a very passionate, very free-flowing person who can work well with different people, different backgrounds.”
Chat with Paschke-Wood, and Minnick’s meaning is evident. Her conversations are punctuated with a hearty laugh.
A transplant to Lafayette from Prescott, Ariz., Paschke-Wood moved to Lafayette in mid-July when her husband, Jeremiah, accepted a faculty job at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Dupr é Library. The couple have a 2-year-old daughter, Penelope.
“Everyone we meet is welcoming and open — and they want to feed you,” she said between laughs. “My husband keeps joking that we have come to my people because usually I am the entertainer.”
She spent her first few days on the job meeting one-on-one with the festival’s two full-time staff members: Lisa Stafford, programming director, and Apiyo Obala, marketing director.
Paschke-Wood also has been working closely with Diane Harris, who has served as the festival’s interim director for the past few months.
Harris also works as the festival’s production director on a contract basis.
“It’s been an illuminating couple of days, and I’ve been amazed at how strong the festival is and how little they do need,” Paschke-Wood said.
“These are capable, longtime staff members who know what they’re doing. They know how to put on an incredible festival,” she said.
“It’s not my job to put a wrench into that at all. I’m here to support those folks and help polish where need be.”
The festival drew 400,000 during its five-day period in April, with an estimated economic impact on Lafayette of about $30 million, Obala said.
As Paschke-Wood started the job last week, festival staff were still wrapping up work to close out the most recent festival and were booking artists for the next festival.
“To be able to host 400,000 people in downtown Lafayette every single year, we have to begin planning as soon as the other one finishes,” she said.
“We’re also talking about the volunteer situation and how to better streamline that process. We need to think about that process now because we recruit in February.”
There’s also planning for the official release of the upcoming festival’s artwork, pin and poster. Festival artist DD Manly is working on the pieces, which likely will be unveiled early next year.
In Prescott, Paschke-Wood was the marketing and development director of the Yavapai Humane Society and prior to that she served as marketing manager for the Arizona Theatre Co., which operated theaters in Tuscon and Phoenix.
“The Arizona Theatre Co. was the state theater of Arizona,” she said. “I am used to helping run a very large operation and consulted for arts nonprofits in the past. That’s where my passion is.”
The festival job aligns with her interests, she said.
“Any organization that goes to put on a party for 400,000 people and bring in the world’s best musicians is certainly going to get my attention and I want to be a part of it,” she said. “This is really the jewel in Lafayette’s crown.”
Planning the festival is an all-year job for a small staff, a volunteer board and countless other volunteers who help ensure that the last weekend in April happens seamlessly, Paschke-Wood said.
“I continue to be amazed at how much goes into every single aspect of this festival,” she said. “I’m learning about what everybody brings to the table and I’m learning about how much our volunteers do.
“When I say volunteers, I’m not just talking about the people on festival days but the people who put hours and hours in during the year to serve on these committees to make sure that these few special days go off without a hitch.”
Another surprise has been the bands and musicians whose careers were launched after a festival appearance, such as The Givers and Royal Teeth, she said.
She said Stafford has been showing her video highlights of festivals past and clips of bands that could be playing a sc è ne near you come April.
Paschke-Wood laughed at an attempt to pry information about April’s lineup.
“That’s sweet of you to ask,” Paschke-Wood said, adding another laugh. “That was one of the very first things — even before I received an email address — I was told you can’t tell secrets. You can’t tell programming secrets. Lisa Stafford will have my hide.”
Minnick said the board looks for Paschke-Wood to bring fresh ideas to the festival — and additional funding sources.
“She’s rolling up those sleeves and trying to get a greater understanding of the organization,” Minnick said.
“After that, we’ll be able to formulate the things that she can improve on organizationally, such as extra funding so we can improve the quality of our show.
“I think that’s very important: Not only to stay focused on our mission but improve the quality of our mission.”