Each year at the end of April, music fans from all over the world pour into Lafayette, Louisiana—the heart of Acadiana—for an event unlike any other. Festival de International Louisiane (April 26–30), the largest international festival in the United States, brings more than 300,000 people together for a cultural melting pot of music, food, language, and culture that celebrates French heritage throughout the world. And it’s free—there’s no admission charge.
“It’s definitely a festival for the senses because you’ve got sights, sounds, smells,” says April Courville, marketing director for the festival. “You’re going to see music that you may never get a chance to see again.”
With a diverse lineup of performers from more than eighteen countries, the festival’s global blend of music offers something for any listener. Acts like Lakou Mizik (Haiti), Belzebuth (Quebec), and Ginkgoa (USA/France) take to six stages located throughout downtown. For a more intimate experience, viewers can watch performances up-close and even have the opportunity to interview bands like Red Baraat (India) and Sirius Plan (France/Belgium) at the Chat Room on Saturday and Sunday,
Local talent gets their chance in the spotlight, too. For ten years, LIME, or Louisiana International Music Exchange has given local artists the chance to perform—and network with music industry professionals. “We try to present a diverse mix of music,” says Erin Bass, co-chair of LIME. “It’s a really intimate way to check out some of these bands.” Last year’s group of performers impressed music booker Todd Puckhaber so much that he offered the city of Lafayette an official showcase at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, earlier this year.
There’s art, too. Tattooed Walls, an interactive event where fans watch artists like Lynda Frese and Kelly Russo live-paint murals, makes watching paint dry fun. And, of course, this being Cajun country, there’s plenty of great food. Crawfish pistolettes, pork jambalaya, and crawfish etouffee represent some of the local offerings. Dishes like samosas, crepes, or curried goat tacos showcase the fest’s international reach. Quench your thirst at the Craft Biergarten, where, among dozens of local offerings, Bayou Teche Brewery will be pouring a Bavarian Kellerbier brewed exclusively for the festival in between Brewmaster Talks.
“It’s definitely something you can’t really put words to,” says Courville of the festival. “You just have to experience it for yourself.”