Not too many years ago it might have been difficult to find true Louisiana culture beyond the state line. But today you can see Swamp Pop soda on the big screen in Los Angeles, add a dash of Tabasco to your dinner on Fifth Avenue in New York and throw something to the screaming crowd from the Mardi Gras app for your iPhone.
The Cajun and Creole culture has been around for hundreds of years, with hardworking people living meagerly but always persevering. Cajuns and Creoles have maintained much of the culture and traditions that were created hundreds of years ago with a heavy emphasis on faith, family and food.
While our food has been on the national radar for many years, people outside the area are beginning to recognize that we’ve got a good thing going here beyond the kitchen. Lafayette Travel tracks how many published articles included Cajun, Lafayette and similar words. In 2015, Lafayette received more than $17.9 million worth of free advertising through articles written about the area.
In Acadiana, we will celebrate anything — from andouille to zydeco — and there is usually a festival to commemorate it. A strong tourism industry has developed because of this festival network, our indigenous culture and the hospitality of Acadiana’s residents. Many out-oftown visitors hear stories from friends and colleagues and choose to experience Louisiana and Acadiana first-hand. They find the stories of jam sessions on a porch, dancing in the streets and delicious foods a reality that they want to bring home with them when they leave.
If you’ve been to the movie theaters lately, you may have seen a cameo from local soda company Swamp Pop in the movie 10 Cloverfield Lane. This month Swamp Pop also became available at retailers in the UK.
“The Cajun brand continues to resonate beyond the region because it’s authentic in a world where authenticity seems increasingly lacking. Its strength is inextricably linked to the strength of our culture and traditions,” says John Petersen, Swamp Pop co-founder. “Family, fun, great music, great flavors — we ship these ideals with every bottle of Swamp Pop Soda that leaves Louisiana. This just shows that as long as we preserve and promote the uniqueness of our way of life, companies like ours can find opportunities all over the world.”
Andrew Godley with Parish Brewing also sees the growing demand for his products from outside of the state. While Parish Brewing doesn’t distribute outside of Louisiana, its beers are some of the most highly traded selections in beverage trading networks across the country.
“There are quite a few small breweries around the U.S. that make highly soughtafter beer and the only way to get it, is to trade for it. It happens that some of our beers, specifically Ghost in the Machine, get traded all over the country,” says Godley. “As we grow, it seems demand for our beer in Louisiana grows as well, and we may not be able to make enough beer to satisfy Louisiana for a while.”
Companies like these are exporting more than something to quench your thirst. They are showing people that our quality of life is the same as the quality of our drinks and food — unique and full of flavor.
It’s not just tourists who are coming back for a second look at Acadiana, as business owners have taken note that Acadiana is a place they want to do business. Through the years, LEDA has brought many prospects to the region. In the past two years, at least five major out-of-state businesses decided Lafayette is the place they needed to be. Along with strong state and local support and a diversified business base and workforce, our Southern friendliness drew in Bell Helicopter, CGI, Perficient and Enquero. In March, ATC Group Services announced the re-establishment of its headquarters in Lafayette from Denver. They all expressed that one of the reasons for establishing a location in Lafayette was the people — for both our business expertise and our hospitality.
Today, visitors are interested in our food, our music, our hospitality and our business. Lafayette is poised to welcome not only leisure travelers looking for a good time, but also business owners looking to make good business decisions.
Gregg Gothreaux is president and CEO of the Lafayette Economic Development Authority.