Festival International is such a staple in Acadiana that many of us can’t remember life without it.
Having just turned 32, Festival International has come a long way since it’s beginnings in the ’80s.
It was originally modeled after Festival d’été de Québec, a Canadian summer festival.
Original Festival International board member Sally Herpin explains how one of Lafayette’s favorite traditions first came together.
“The first festival was in July in 1987,” says Herpin. “The goal was to focus on the French heritage, encourage economic development especially downtown and also improve morale in the community.”
Looking for international entertainment, the board of all volunteers decided they could borrow acts from Festival d’ete by holding Festival International in the same month.
“We did a lot of the early programming through French, francophone friends, sister cities and that kind of thing,” Herpin says.
It was a success, drawing international visitors that intrigued locals, as well as local artists who fascinated those from out of town.
The board decided they’d do it again, next time, in the spring.
“July was not a good time for a festival,” Herpin says. “But the first one was like magic so we decided we wanted to do it annually and we actually did the second festival ten months later in April. That was a miracle to pull that off.”
After the first year, an annual tradition began of beginning work on the next Festival the day the previous one ends.
Since then, a citywide effort and a global love of Festival International de Louisiane have grown the tradition to what it is today.