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Festival International: When Playing Second Fiddle Is a Blessing

Posted April 29, 2011 in Festivals, Louisiana Travel

Stages for Festival International are spread across Lafayette’s small downtown business district.
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Stages for Festival International are spread across Lafayette's small downtown business district.

It’s an extremely busy time for festivals around south Louisiana. While Jazz Fest in New Orleans tends to suck in most of the oxygen in the room due to its sheer size, rich history and general awesomeness, the Festival International de Louisiane two hours down the highway in Lafayette is an increasingly appealing draw as well.

The largest music festival in Lafayette, it coincides with the first weekend of Jazz Fest, but it’s possible to do both on different days if you have mobility and plan your time right. For some, though, there’s no question. For them, Festival International’s smaller scale, more focused musical offerings and Lafayette setting make it the go-to festival every time.

Festival International features artists from around the globe and it has a special emphasis on performers from the Francophone world. Naturally, many local Cajun and zydeco bands are on the schedule each year. Local restaurants provide the food, and these vendors sell a mix of Cajun dishes, ethnic eats and festival classics. This time of year, the crawfish are everywhere.

Sometimes I wish these Jazz Fest and Festival International were on different weekends, as I think it would help more people see how wonderful Festival International really is. But perhaps it’s a blessing to keep this thing a more low-key affair than its much larger New Orleans peer. It remains free, for instance, and being held at a series of outdoor stages around Lafayette’s small but genuinely labyrinthine downtown business district makes it feel much more like a community event. If you’ve been to French Quarter Festival – or, more aptly, if you remember French Quarter Fest from a decade or so ago, when it too was smaller – you’ll recognize the vibe around the streets at Festival International.

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