Weeklong event celebrates Cajun, Creole culture

Cajun and Creole enthusiasts from around the world are set to convene in Lafayette for a week of study about the unique music and food of south Louisiana in its native setting.

The six-day Dewey Balfa Cajun and Creole Heritage Week is expected to draw travelers from across the country and from as far away as Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and even China to learn the secrets of Cajun and Creole music, dance, food and cocktails.

“The week offers an immersion in the music and related cultural expressions that go with it,” said Louisiana Folk Roots Executive Director Todd Mouton. “It’s a chance to spend a week with visiting teachers, to learn their songs and stories, to eat great food and to dance to great bands.”

The event officially starts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Vermilionville with a dance to kick off the festivities.

The rest of the weeklong event will feature classes ranging from Cajun music — singing, dancing, fiddle, guitar and accordion — to Cajun and Creole “forklore” culinary classes, including tutorials from local chefs on jambalaya and boudin and from local bartenders on a new class, “Cocktails That Made Louisiana Famous.”

Intensive music classes take place from 9 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. and cost $25, followed by a band lab and lunch.

Afternoon classes, including music and cooking, are $10, which Mouton said is a great deal for the 75-minute sessions.

“There’s no need to preregister,” he said. “Just come.”

Mouton said there is nothing else like this in the world.

“From 5 p.m. Saturday to midnight Thursday, we’re here,” he said. “We’re here 16 hours a day. It’s not a festival. It’s not a school. And it’s not a family reunion. It’s all of that and more.”

The event, now in its 15th year, had been held in more-remote areas, such as Chicot State Park near Ville Platte and Lake Fausse Pointe State Park in St. Martin Parish.

“We’re really excited to be here,” Mouton said. “In Lafayette, we have access to so many more artists and people who do this year-round.”

Christine Balfa, founder of Louisiana Folk Roots and Balfa Week, said she was excited but nervous for the event’s debut in Lafayette.

“There’s something really cool about being secluded in a state park,” she said. “It lets you get to know the people who come from out of state for the whole week. We’re all so busy and it’s a nice way to slow down. But Lafayette is awesome. Vermilionville is wonderful. It will be different but exciting.”

David Cheramie, CEO of Bayou Vermilion District, said he considers Balfa Week an asset to Vermilionville, a living history park that showcases traditional Cajun and Creole homes and folkways.

“We share pretty much the same mission — the preservation, the transmission of our culture for locals and for people around the world,” he said. “We’ve been partnering with Folk Roots for a little over a year already with their kids camp in the summer and their office is on our campus. It’s just a natural fit.”

For more information and a complete schedule, visit www.lafolkroots.org/balfa-week.