April 9, 2015 02:26 PM

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It’s little secret that Festival International de Louisiane struggles to make financial ends meet while still putting on a world-class event for five days every April. It’s been said that FIL is one rainy weekend away from financial ruin. That might be an exaggeration, but there’s little dispute that keeping Festival free and keeping it Downtown are tall orders, and kudos to the staff and board for making a symphony with washboards and harmonicas.


Last year for our May cover story, just as the dust was settling on another fantastic Fest, The Ind laid out some steps we thought — and still believe — were prudent to get FIL on permanently sound financial footing. “Fest Fix” recommended, among other things, a more generous contribution from Lafayette Consolidated Government, which for well over a decade has contributed a paltry $72,000 to an event that has grown exponentially and generates more than $20 million in economic activity for metro Lafayette and pumps more than $1 million in sales tax revenue into LCG coffers.

Cognizant of the need to enhance its bottom line, FIL this year rolled out a Festival Pass program that allows supporters to buy packages of perks in tiers ranging from $1,000 to $65 per pass. The $1,000 Marquis Pass entitles holders to a slew of extras including access to the Marquis Tent at the main stage featuring a buffet and open bar, access to VIP bathrooms, express drink lines and admission to private areas atop the Vermilion Street parking garage and in the pocket park (Parc de Lafayette) connecting Jefferson Street to the parking tower.

But the Festival Pass program, especially the closing off of areas like the parking tower and pocket park that were previously accessible to the general public, is raising some hackles among longtime Festival junkies who say the Fest Pass scheme breaks with the egalitarian spirit of Festival International.

To wit, a Facebook user in a closed (private) group recently posed the question to fellow members:

Tell me how you guys feel about this new festival pass... I’m so conflicted... I feel it’s great that they are looking for ways to raise money- but I feel like it’s against the spirit of festival. I feel like now festival will be the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ which is completely against the spirit of international.
The people with money get privilege. Again.

Over three days the conversation grew among members of the group, with most taking a side on the issue yet still managing to remain civil, which can be very un-social media-like, if you know what I mean. Following is the thread. Because it’s a closed, private group on Facebook, names and profile pictures have been redacted and blurred, save for my own. (For the record, if the passes help keep Festival free and Downtown, I'm OK with them.)


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