Citing the economic downturn brought on by the slump in oil prices as well as the August floods, Festival International de Louisiana finally officially acknowledged today what many in Lafayette have known for weeks: There will be no Heritage Stage featuring local Cajun and zydeco bands at the 2017 Festival.
It’s ominous news for Lafayette’s biggest annual tourism draw, necessitated by a precipitous drop in corporate sponsorships for the event, which relies on a paltry contribution from city government paired with robust corporate goodwill and a legion of volunteers over the course of its 30 years.
The IND first reported the demise of the Heritage Stage on Nov. 9 after becoming privy to internal emails. The Advertiser published a report today, which evidently prompted FIL to issue a press release Tuesday afternoon:
In the wake of an economic downturn, organizers have officially announced the elimination of one of the six stages, Scène Heritage. Located off Jefferson Street, the stage featured many of the Cajun and Zydeco bands booked for the Festival, along with Courir du Festival 5K race, held the Saturday of Festival.
A loss of sponsor support due to the slumping economy and historic floods have led officials to cut the stage. With an operating budget of $1.1 M, roughly $330,000 of funding comes from corporate sponsorships. As of date, Festival International has only a handful of corporate sponsors confirmed. Per Executive Director, Scott Feehan, eliminating Scène Heritage may be only the beginning of cuts. “For three months after Festival, we had phone call after phone call losing corporate sponsors’ support,” says Feehan. Most cited similar situations - budget cuts.
With over 300,000 Festival-goers annually, half of that money spent is from people residing outside Lafayette Parish, and a third from outside the state of Louisiana. Per a 2008 Economic Impact study, Festival International pumps $49M back into the local economy. Thirty years ago, during an oil crunch, Festival was founded with a mission to help revive the community – spiritually and economically. Organizers are determined to continue with that mission.
The community can help by showing support at whatever level is appropriate to them. Individual donors make up almost 20% of the budget. “It is up to all of us in this community who value Festival to pull together and show our support. Whether it is $10 or $3,000 for a Rain Angels membership, it all adds up. If everybody supports at whatever level we are able to, we can make it happen,” says Feehan. He notes that fewer than 300 people support the organization monetarily among the 300,000 people who attend.
Some of the performers originally scheduled for Scène Heritage will be reworked into other stages and the Courir du Festival 5K will take place at neighboring stage, Scène Fais Do Do on Saturday, April 29, 2016.