Summer is upon us people, which means it’s music festival season!
How appropriate that my last weekend in the US before my big move was spent at my favorite event in my hometown – Festival International de Louisiane. I’ve been dying to share with ya’ll about this festival because it really is my favorite thing about where I live!
It was a weekend filled with family, friends, music, food, and so much happiness before I really cracked down on finishing up packing and cleaning before my big move tomorrow!
This festival has such a special place in my heart because I’ve been going every year since I was a little kid. Actually, I’m pretty sure last year was the 1st year I’ve ever missed (and I only missed because I was drowning in schoolwork and my senior thesis).
When we were little, and the festival was a LOT less crowded, my parents and grandparents would go every year, dragging around lawn chairs and my brother and me in our strollers.
Every year, though, the festival has gotten bigger and bigger. This year, over 400,000 people attended throughout the weekend! Now, my parents only go on Sunday when it’s a little less crowded, and my grandparents don’t even go. On Friday night and Saturday it is absolutely packed, but it’s worth it because it really is such a cool and unique festival. And best part is, IT’S FREE!
Yep, that’s right! Festival International is completely free! No lines at the entrance, no security, no $300 weekend passes. You just show up, find free parking or pay up to $10, and jump right in! Even the food and drinks are decently priced!
It’s in Downtown Lafayette, Louisiana and has 8 stages. It runs from Wednesday night to Sunday, and has a lineup of about 75 musical acts from all around the world.
Now let me break it down for you. I love everything about this festival. The 3 things I make sure to take full advantage of during the festival are the music, the food, and the vendors.
As far as the music goes, I love the INTERNATIONAL aspect of it. For example, on Sunday, I started off the day listening to a band playing traditional music from Veracruz, Mexico. Then, I walked to a different stage to check out a Nigerian group, then left to catch an amazing local zydeco band, then switched to see a Belgian harp player, then back to another stage to see a band from Mauritania, then finished the day with a group from Honduras. Woah, typing it all out makes it seem really exhausting, but it’s such a great time! I mean, when/where else can you do something like that? This festival gives you the opportunity to check out some amazing traditional and unique music from all over the world. And even though I go into the weekend not really knowing anyone in the lineup, by the end of the weekend I always have my favorites that I stumbled across and just happened to love. This year, it was Grupo Fantasma, the Latin funk jam band from Austin, TX, and Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate, a duo made up of 50% England and 50% Guinea that mixes rapping/beatboxing with a West-African harp. How cooooool is that?!
And of, course, another thing I love about the festival is (SHOCKER!) the food. Tons of food booths from local restaurants make it so hard to decide what the heck you’re going to get as your festival dinner. Do you want the chargrilled oysters? Do you want fried alligator? Do you want a bowl of chicken and sausage gumbo? Do you want the “spinach and crawfish boat”? (Answer: You want the spinach and crawfish boat.) Walking around and trying some of the decently-priced food is a great way to get a taste of Louisiana culture (pun intended).
And finally, the artists and vendors. You could go to festival and walk around all day just…shopping. Just like the bands, the artists and vendors come from all over the world with jewelry, clothes, shoes, home decor, and basically anything you can think of. Mexican dresses, necklaces from Africa, or purses from South America..you can find all kinds of great items! (Hint: I find that the best time to go shopping is on Sunday, because it’s the end of the weekend and easier to talk the vendors down and get a better deal.)
So if you’re ever in South Louisiana in late April (as one is…), consider checking this festival out! You could even do this festival one weekend and New Orleans Jazzfest the other (since this festival always coincides with the first of Jazzfest’s 2 weekends). It’s free, it’s fun, and it’s so worth it. Take my word for it! I mean, have I ever led your wrong? Oh, and did I mention it’s the biggest free Francophone festival in the country? Check out some more scenes from Festival International, and listen to some of the cool bands featured on this year’s lineup here!
PS – By the time some of you read this, I’ll be on a plane on my way to Dublin, to live in Ireland for a year. I’m scared, I’m nervous, I’m a little sad to be leaving behind the ones I love, but I’m so excited. Follow along on Instagram at @saraseesblog and my personal account @sgrana2 for updates and shenanigans from my journey there! I don’t know when the next time I’ll be able to post is, but hopefully by the time I do I’ll have some great stories to tell! So in the meantime, I’ll be posting things I see/encounter/experience quickly on Instagram, so be sure to follow along! Wish me luck, you fine people!