Festival Acadiens et Créoles Creating New Series

In an effort to expand the cultural and educational aspects of the Festival Acadiens et Créoles year-round, festival organizers and supporters have introduced a free monthly series of Cajun music, culture, and history, according to this feature from The Acadiana Advocate.

The Founder of Festival Acadiens et Créoles, Barry Ancelet, wanted to create a monthly community event that honors the historical, contemporary, and future cultural traditions of Cajun and Creole culture. In conjunction with the Festival Acadiens et Créoles, Anaclet and festival supporters have organized Legacy Series, a monthly offering of lectures and musical performances that are designed to explore the art, music, and cuisine of Acadiana.

Barry Ancelet, also a professor and longtime folklorist, spoke about this new way for the local community to come together to not only be entertained by Cajun and Creole traditions but also be educated by them. Ancelot said, “the presentations will be entertaining but will also matter. We will explore the legacy from those who inspired us. We will consider what they gave us and how it continues to inspire us. The Festival team has been considering ways to have ongoing activity and presence throughout the year.”

Festivals Acadiens et Créoles launched its first event in the first Legacy Series on Thursday, July 7th at the Feed & Seed in Lafayette. The inaugural event featured “The Legacy of Dewy Balfa,” a Cajun musician and music ambassador from Mamou. Balfa’s musical legacy, recordings, and live performances all helped to shape and popularize Cajun Music far outside of his Acadiana homeland. The legacy of this prominent figure in Cajun music was told with performances from Dewy Balfa’s daughter, Christine Balfa of Balfa Toujours, as well as Grammy Award winner Steve Riley and fiddler David Greeley. Riley and Greely were both nominated for four Grammys as members of Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, and Christine Balfa was nominated for a Grammy with Bonsoir Catin.

The event, according to Barry Ancelet, sought to not only hear, celebrate, and consider the musical legacy of Dewey Balfa, but to also “preserve the tradition” that he revered. In fact, the Balfa Brothers had played at the first informal Festival Acadiens et Créoles event on March 26, 1974. The event was then called “A Tribute to Cajun Music,” and it saw crowds of local music enthusiasts gathering at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette to listen to musical legends of the craft. Performers included the Balfa band, Dennis McGee and Sady Courville, Clifton Chenier, Nathan Abshire, Marc Savoy, and many others, all of whom performed the concert for the benefit of French Journalists as well as the local community.

When starting the planning and conception of the event, Barry Ancelet and Pat Mould, the organizer and promoter of the Festival Acadiens et Créoles, were always very cognizant to imbue an educational aspect to their Legacy Series, through what Ancelet affectionately refers to as “guerrilla education.”

He spoke about the Legacy Series’s connection to the Festival Acadiens et Créoles by saying, “like the festival itself, this series is designed to honor those who have left us so much of what we celebrate today. It is focused not only on their past contributions but also on the ongoing impact of their legacies, as contemporary musicians continue to use the past to create the future. The series will give us the opportunity to produce and present informed entertainment throughout the year.”

Ancelet revealed that the next performance in the ongoing free monthly series will feature the music of Joseph and Cléoma Falcon and that he already has a list of over 60 programs to present in the Legacy Series, making for many more educational and entertaining performances for the Acadiana community.

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Louisiana Restaurants Featured by Acadiana Local

A New Orleans native and promoter of South Louisiana cuisine and Louisiana restaurants has become a viral sensation for his TikTok videos celebrating small businesses, their owners, and their cuisine, according to his NOLA.com profile piece.

Gerald Gruenig, now age 32, revealed to NOLA.com that he was born and raised atop the Po-Boy Bakery, a Gentilly hot-plate and sandwich shop that was owned and operated by his father Gary “Koz” Gruenig. Gerald’s family home was located on the second story of the restaurant, which provided him not only a unique perspective of the patrons, business practices, and meals of a mom-and-pop style restaurant but an appreciation for the one-of-a-kind cuisine as well.

Gruenig reflected on his childhood experience by saying that by growing up in Gentilly in such close proximity to the University of New Orleans, he was always exposed to “the full monte of people,” referring to professors, students, athletes, and regular neighborhood folk. He also said, “it gave me an appreciation for the working class of everywhere. It was one of those things where you don’t realize how unique or lucky you are to be brought up the way you were.”

Gerald Gruenig, who had established a routine in serving and supporting the patronage of his father’s restaurant, had his journey altered by Hurricane Katrina destroying the Po-Boy Bakery with floodwaters in 2005. Soon after, Greunig’s parents gutted and sold the building in 2006, moved uptown, and opened Koz’s, a new restaurant in Harahan, which remains in business to this day.

Gerald then stayed on the Northshore for four years, graduated from Fontainebleau High School, and earned a full athletic scholarship to Nicholls State University where he started on the offensive line and eventually worked his way up to team captain. When asked about his time in Thibodaux, he said that the city had “introduced me to rice and gravy culture.”

Upon graduating from Nicholls, Gruenig took up a career in sports broadcasting with his internship at WDSU-TV in New Orleans, became a weekend sports anchor at KALB-TV5 in Alexandria, and then eventually joined the Sports team at KLFY in Lafayette in 2014.

After a year of working for KLFY-TV, Gruenig began his highly-popular Acadiana Eats segments, which afforded him the opportunity to highlight the Southern cuisine  at Louisiana restaurants that he had been enraptured by since birth. Later in 2016, he transitioned to hosting KLFY’s long-running morning show, Passé Partout, and according to Gruenig, “my focus drastically changed from sports to jumping into the food scene.”

Since beginning Acadiana Eats, Gruenig has visited over 300 locally-owned restaurants in the Acadiana Area. In speaking about this feat, he said, “I really fell in love with the Lafayette area. I’m making friends with people in New Iberia, Breaux Bridge, and all over. I’ve never had a problem jumping in anywhere, so when we go shoot a segment, I’ve been in that type of place before, because I’ve lived all over the state. The reward is not the food. The reward is the phone call I get from a restaurant after a segment airs. We’ll put a restaurant on Acadiana Eats, and they’ll sell out completely. We’ll put someone on TV, maybe, that’s struggling, and they’ll call me in tears because that segment saved their business. And this has been going on for years. Like I say, we ain’t new to this, we true to this.”

Gerald Gruenig’s Acadiana Eats segments have attracted a dedicated and devoted following of fans who follow his journey from one mom-and-pop restaurant in South Louisiana to another via his social media presence on TikTok and Instagram. He is heralded for his featuring of South Louisiana restaurants and cuisine, the small family-run establishments.  It’s also his “down-home approach and crackling bonhomie” that sets him apart. His tone isn’t “encyclopedic, analytical, or critical,” it’s an honest showcasing and championing of South Louisiana cuisine and those who make it. Gruenig said of his aim, “I’m just trying to put a restaurant in the best light because I know how hard it is on families, the people who work at these restaurants, man. It’s not an easy life.”

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Supreme Rice Invests in New Crowley and Mermentau Facilities

One of the leading processors of rice in the state of Louisiana, Supreme Rice, recently announced that they are investing $16.2 million in the development of new parboil facilities in the towns of Crowley and Mermentau, according to The Advocate and a statement from the Governor’s office.

Supreme Rice, known for being one of the largest rice-milling operations in the state of Louisiana, plans to begin the construction of the new two facilities by the fourth quarter of 2022. The plan is to develop a new parboil mill inside of Crowley’s existing facility and to build a new greenfield facility in Mermentau for the company’s parboil operations and to partially cook rice for a new product line. Both facilities are projected to create 20 direct new jobs in addition to the company retaining the 181 jobs present at its current locations. Additionally, the Louisiana Economic Development estimates that the expansion project will create 79 indirect jobs, resulting in a total of nearly 100 new jobs for the citizens of Acadia Parish.

Supreme Rice CEO Bobby Hanks commented on the imminent project by saying, “our new parboil facility in Mermentau will allow us to market this product line to customers. The new parboil rice products will create another value-added milled rice offering that further supports the stability of Louisiana-grown rice.”

In order to properly secure the project in Acadia Parish, Supreme Rice was awarded a competitive incentive package of $750,000 from the state’s Economic Development Award Program. The incentive package was awarded by the state of Louisiana, and Supreme Rice is also expected to utilize both the state’s Enterprise Zone and Quality Jobs programs throughout the project’s completion.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards spoke of the $16.2 million project by saying, “as a processor of one of Louisiana’s key crops, Supreme Rice is both a cultural ambassador and an agribusiness leader for our state. This expansion and the new jobs it will generate in Acadiana will help to sustain the growing momentum of our rural revitalization efforts.”

Also commenting on their appreciation of Supreme Rice’s expansion into their towns was Crowley Mayor Tim Monceaux who said, “Supreme Rice Mill is a very important economic engine for Crowley, Acadia Parish, and the State of Louisiana. We are pleased and excited to have this expansion realized and look forward to the continued success and growth of this business. Under Bobby Hanks’ leadership, the rice mill has grown substantially, and we wish him the very best in his endeavors.” Similarly, Mermentau Mayor Darla Istre was also appreciative in speaking of her anticipation of the project’s completion and the economic boost that will accompany it.

Previously, in a 2019 statement, Gov. John Bel Edwards and Supreme Rice President and CEO Bobby Hanksannounced the $20 million expansion of 25,000 square feet that was added to the Crowley facility. Ideally, it was a no-brainer for Supreme Rice to adapt the manufacturing space for these new parboil operations. Governor Edwardsspoke in that 2019 announcement with words that are still resonant today, given the news of Supreme Rice’s new project; he said, “Louisiana’s natural resources and geographic position have blessed us with an agricultural bounty that is the envy of the world.” The Governor proceeded to thank the “landmark Crowley company” which was celebrating 85 years in business at the time. In conclusion, he said, “I congratulate the Supreme Rice team on this expansion and on the securing of great jobs in Acadiana,” and as stated above, Governor Edwards’ statement and sentiment still ring true as Supreme Rice continues to invest in Louisiana, its citizens, and its resources.

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Inaugural STEM Fest Allows Acadiana Students to Explore Big Concepts

Approximately 600 elementary and middle school students from Acadiana got to learn about complex science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts in a fun, interactive, and fully immersive way at the inaugural Acadiana STEM Fest, according to The Acadiana Advocate.

The event, Acadiana STEM Fest, was held in the University of Louisiana Student Union and was the result of a partnership between Peter Sheppard, the executive director for UL Lafayette’s Center for Excellence in Education,and STEM NOLA, a nonprofit focused on exposing communities to STEM learning opportunities.

In total, 40 activities, which were provided by STEM NOLA, were installed inside and around UL Lafayette’s student union and manned by UL Lafayette STEM and education students as well as volunteers from industry partners such as CGI and Fenstermaker. These 40 activities allowed 600 students from Acadia, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin, and Vermilion parishes to explore STEM concepts in ways that were much more inviting than traditional lecture and research-based methods.

The event allowed students to learn in nontraditional ways that were enhanced by technology. For instance, they could learn about how radio waves controlled drones by actually operating drones in a controlled environment or even learn about structural engineering by crafting sturdy, resilient structures made out of uncooked spaghetti and marshmallows. The director of the event, Peter Sheppard, was reported as saying that he wanted the students to realize that opportunities to learn and apply their knowledge exist far beyond traditional classrooms.

Sheppard spoke on the value of Acadiana STEM Fest’s approach to nontraditional learning by saying, “I think curriculums are restricted. Schools are restricted in what they can do. Those restrictions aren’t there in the real world. Exposure to STEM activities gives them the space to think and to do it and to be curious without having to be evaluated or judged. It can be fun. It can be useful. It can be practical. It can be intellectual.”

Other than having the methods by which the students learn be different from their traditional classrooms, Sheppard also strived to remove any barriers to access for students who otherwise wouldn’t have frequent and free exposure to STEM programing, activities, and learning opportunities such as girls, minority students, and those students from underserved or under-resourced communities.

Speaking on the benefits of the set of skills that one can gain through STEM-based learning, David Hawkins, the director of operations for STEM NOLA, emphasized that the world is becoming more and more STEM-focused by the day, citing the “growing ubiquity of artificial intelligence and computer-controlled equipment and machinery.”

Hawkins stressed the importance of students developing themselves from a root center by challenging their minds; he said, “When we expose our kids to the possibility of being a tennis star or golf star, they put in the time, work, and effort for it. If we expose our kids to the possibilities of being teachers, engineers, doctors, scientists – we train them to move in that direction. Early exposure gives them encouragement and the motivation to move in the direction of STEM. The skillset you learn in the STEM fields transcends throughout your life. Regardless of what you do, you’re going to have to be analytical, solve problems and you’re going to be faced with challenges.”

According to Sheppard, Acadiana STEM Fest is the first of seven planned camp-style events that the Center for Excellence and Education and its Region 4 STEM Network Center are hosting at UL Lafayette in the next few months, which is branded as “STEMulating Summer 2.0.” These upcoming events as well as the inaugural Acadiana STEM Fest were made possible by grant funds from the Louisiana Board of Regents and its LaSTEM Initiative.

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Acadiana Recently Celebrated French Language Month

Taking great pride in their heritage, an estimated 250,000 French speakers today call Louisiana their home, but according to this in-depth article detailing the importance of French Language Month from The Daily Advertiser, that number has dwindled from the over 1 million Francophones calling Louisiana their home just a couple of generations ago.

As per a Lafayette Consolidated Government release, “celebrating the French language and culture is hugely important for a state with such a rich history and connection to the French-speaking world.” This in addition to the fact that French is the fifth most widely spoken language in the world, as spoken by some 369 million people, makes it obvious that Louisiana holds on tight to its Francophone roots in light of a decrease in use.

Warren Perrin, a 75-year old attorney and founder of Erath’s Musée Acadien, is a passionate advocate for the French Language, especially its history and usage in Louisiana. Perrin both practices law and teaches museum patrons of Acadiana’s history in an effortless switching between the English and French languages in a bilingual effort and display of linguistic pride. In speaking on the diminishment of French-speaking Louisianans, Perrin said, “our language is imploding as we don’t use it enough. We’re not expanding it in Louisiana. We have a very precious commodity. We’ve got to save it.”

This alarming decrease in popularity of one of the main points of pride for Louisiana citizens is the reason why it has become increasingly more important for leaders in Acadiana and Louisiana as a whole to signify March as Le Mois de la Francophonie,” or French Language Month. This isn’t simply an event in nomenclature, but instead, it’s an opportunity for our state to participate in an ongoing global tradition of celebrating not only the French language but also Francophone culture and the diversity of those who speak it often.

One way in which both government officials and educators in Louisiana have been able to contribute towards the effort of growing the number of Francophones (french-speaking citizens) was through the Council for Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL), a state agency that was created in 1968 to supplement Louisiana’s history of suppressing of the Cajun French Language and culture.

This suppression was most commonly seen in French not being no being allowed to be spoken in the public school system or even in public places. But today, approximately 5,500 students are enrolled in French immersion programsacross the state with many of the French immersion teachers coming to Louisiana from French-speaking countries worldwide. For just the 2021-2022 school year alone, teachers came to teach in Louisiana public schools’ French and Spanish immersion programs from Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Cameroon, France, Mexico, Madagascar, Senegal, Spain, and Tunisia.

Peggy Feehan, CODOFIL Executive Director, praised these teachers’ dedication in saying, “these teachers have a remarkable impact. Thanks to their work in our schools, young Louisianans are gaining not only a second language but also learning about our state’s unique place in the world. Immersion education opens countless doors for these students and exposes them to cultures from around the world, all while shedding light on Louisiana’s own rich culture, heritage, and history.”

While the amount of Francophones in Louisiana is decreasing, the effort to celebrate the culture and language continues in the form of not just museums and French Immersion programs but most notably, the annual festivals. The Louisiana community regularly celebrates its French heritage and love of the language at the two Acadiana staples:Festivals Acadiens et Créoles and Festival International de Louisiane.

As long as these events remain and the French-speaking history of our citizens continues to be passed down to the next generation and celebrated throughout “Le Mois de la Francophonie,” then our history will be retained for years to come.

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2021 Christmas Events Across Acadiana

The Holiday and Christmas season in Louisiana is always such a magical time. From festive parades and extravagant light shows to concerts and performances, there’s always plenty going on in the state, particularly in the Acadiana region. So, if you’re looking for a holiday experience in the region, then this curated list from KATC will lead you in the right direction.

Christmas in the Park | Lafayette, Louisiana

At long last, one of the most-anticipated locations in Lafayette Parish, Moncus Park, is set to officially open to the public at the turn of the new year on January 1, 2022. Residents of Lafayette have been awaiting this massive, innovative public park for years, but locals can secure a chance to enter the park before it’s “officially open” by purchasing a ticket to Christmas in the Park, a 12-night seasonal event kicking off its opening session by way of a festive holiday celebration.

The event will feature a wide variety of family-friendly activities “including six separate kid’s activities per night, a visit from Santa, a Christmas Market and General Store, selfie stations, a live art installation, local food vendors,” and so much more.” Additionally, Moncus Park will host live music each night of the event with performances ranging from local school and church choirs to regional performers.

The Christmas in the Park event at Lafayette’s Moncus Park is presented by Iberia Bank, a division of First Horizonand Laborde Earls Injury Lawyers. It will take place from December 16 to December 29 (excluding Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), tickets can be purchased here, and the event lineup is below:

  • Thurs, 12/16, 7:00 PM Comeaux High School Choir, 8:00 PM Walter Wolfman Washington
  • Fri, 12/17, 7:00 PM North Vermilion High School Choir, 8:00 PM Souled Out
  • Sat, 12/18, 7:00 PM Choir, 8:00 PM Wayne Toups
  • Sun, 12/19, 7:00 PM ELF (movie night)
  • Mon, 12/20, 7:00 PM Corale Des Amis, 8:00 PM Blue Monday Allstars w/ Roddie Romero & Michael Juan Nunez
  • Tues, 12/21, 7:00 PM Local Choir, 8:00 PM Dyer Country
  • Wed, 12/22, 7:00 PM Local Choir, 8:00 PM Josh Leblanc + Nicki Needham
  • Thurs, 12/23, 7:00 PM Caroling w/Dave Trainer, 8:00 PM The Good Dudes
  • Sun, 12/26, 7:30 PM Chubby Carrier
  • Mon, 12/27, 7:30 PM Kelli Jones + The Lindas
  • Tue, 12/28, 7:30 PM Ray Boudreaux
  • Wed, 12/29, 7:30 PM Rebirth Brass Band

Christmas at West Village | Scott, Louisiana

The new 143-acre mixed-use development off of Apollo Road Extension in Scott, Louisiana is welcoming residents to its first Christmas event on Saturday, December 18th from 6 pm to 9 pm. Christmas at West Village presented by Robbie Breaux & Team is set to be a free, family-friendly event with live music by Chubby Carrier & The Bayou Swamp Band, a photo opportunity with Santa Claus, local pop-up shops, and the official Coca-Cola Christmas Truck available on site. The event is open to the public.

Evangeline Parish Events | Turkey Creek and Vidrine, Louisiana

  • The 19th Annual Turkey Creek Christmas Parade will be held on December 18th and start at 11 am.
  • The Vidrine Fire Department will be holding a Santa Run on December 24, Christmas Eve. They’ll start at the Vidrine Fire Station at 1:30 pm and arrive at Vidrine Elementary around 3:30 pm where participants can take photos with Santa.

Jefferson Davis Parish | Jennings, Louisiana

The Jennings Christmas Festival will be held on December 17th from 5 pm to 8 pm in Founder’s Park and offer such experiences as Hot Chocolate with Santa, a Hayride, the Jennings Hall of Trees, a Christmas Fireworks presentation, and much more.

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