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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ULL Awards Jefferson Caffery Research Award

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette has recently awarded the 2021 Jefferson Caffery Research Award to a student examining how Cajun and Creole cultural identity is altered when assimilating into American society, according to a press release from the school.

René Champagne, a senior at UL Lafayette double majoring in French and Francophone Studies as well as Anthropology, wrote his award-winning research paper, “Cajuns, Creoles, and the Impact of Americanization on Ethnic Identity in Louisiana,” in an effort to pay tribute to his hometown of Galliano, Louisiana.

Champagne, who plans on graduating in Fall 2021 and pursuing masters and doctoral degrees in anthropology, attributes his award recognition to his lifelong tracking of the diminishing French culture of the small, unincorporated Lafourche Parish town. Located along Bayou Lafourche, Galliano still has a modestly-sized French-speaking community today, but over the past century, it has greatly diminished due to the region’s assimilation into American society.

According to the UL Lafayette Office of Communications and Marketing, Champagne wrote the award-winning paper as a means to “examine the “evolution of race and ethnicity as a result of factors such as assimilation, and the resulting impact on cultural identity.” Since childhood, the senior has had a fascination with “monitoring cultural changes that have been created by outside influences.” This passion for cultural studies is what had inspired the senior to investigate the many ways that culture is exhibited, celebrated, and suppressed, causing his paper to cover a wide range of topics including customs, traditions, languages, dialects, hurricanes, land loss, and even ways in which culturally-specific holidays were celebrated during the pandemic.

Speaking of Galliano’s declining evidence of South Louisiana culture, Champagne told ULL press, that the town’s “culture is still very present, but south Louisiana, in general, is decreasing rapidly in terms of both culture and land – which is so strongly tied to culture – and that’s a huge interest to me.” The research paper utilizes nearly two dozen sources such as The New York Times, U.S. Census Bureau, the Journal of Anthropological Research, and the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development.

In order to be considered for this annual award, students must either cite or directly investigate primary source documents found in UL Lafayette’s Edith Garland Dupré Library. Specifically, these documents must be found in the Special Collections department of the library, which includes the Louisiana Room, Rare Book Collection, Ernest J. Gaines Center, Cajun and Creole Music Collection, U.S. Government Information, and the University Archives & Acadiana Manuscripts Collection.

Created in 1967, the Jefferson Caffery Research Award was established by Ambassador Jefferson Caffery and his wife, Mrs. Gertrude Jefferson Caffery, to recognize outstanding scholarly research conducted through materials offered by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The award is accompanied by a $500 prize and is bestowedannually by both the Edith Garland Dupré Library and the University Library Committee.

The award’s namesake, Ambassador Caffery was born in Lafayette, Louisiana, and he was an integral part of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s early days as an educational institution. Specifically, he was a part of the school’s first graduating class when it was initially established as the Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute. Caffery kept his ties with the school over his historic career as an American Diplomat, serving as a United States Ambassador to Egypt, France, Brazil, Cuba, Colombia, and El Salvador from 1926-1955. ULL has since honored Caffery not only by annually awarding out the Research Award but by keeping an archival catalog of library holdings in the Jefferson Caffery Reading Room, which is located on the 3rd Floor of Dupré Library.

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