Hurricane Katrina won't hamper Festivals Acadiens.
The poster for this year's Festivals Acadiens (Friday-Sunday, Sept. 16-18, Girard Park and downtown), commissioned by co-sponsor the Lafayette Jaycees and painted by artist Toby Rodriguez, seems even more fitting than previously suggested; a lone fiddle player posing with his accordion, with the historic deportation order, "Le Grand Derangement." And there's this year's theme, noting the 250th anniversary of the Cajuns' exile to southwest Louisiana: "Still Standing."
With thousands of evacuees from New Orleans and the surrounding area seeking refuge in Acadiana from Hurricane Katrina, festival organizers believe Festivals Acadiens couldn't come sooner or be more fitting ' or needed.
"We've opened our arms and homes to [the evacuees], and for those people, as well as the people trying to do whatever we can to help out, we could all use a break," says festival producer Barry Ancelet. "It may not be insignificant to note that when [the displaced Nova Scotians] arrived in 1774 in abject poverty and destitution, one of the first things they did was to sing and dance on the docks. This is the way we express our gratitude for surviving."
Festival performers Steve Riley (pictured) & the Mamou Playboys were up in Vinalhaven, Maine, when Katrina hit, and Riley says that when he returns for a series of local performances he will be greeted by a family of six evacuees staying at his home. "At this point, their home is our home," says Riley, who will debut his latest CD, Dominoes, this week. "That's what we do in Louisiana; we take care of our own when times are rough."
The Acadiana Arts Council's Todd Mouton has also helped organize Helping Employ Artists Locally, with an information booth designed to provide opportunities for the long list of displaced Big Easy musicians and artists. Organizers will also take advantage of the festival as a focal point for the community, making announcements from the main stage regarding everything from shelter to volunteer information. Portions of the proceeds from Festivals Acadiens will be donated to hurricane-relief efforts.
For a complete festival schedule, see P. 27 or visit www.lafayettetravel.com/events/festivals/fest_aca.cfm.