Joie de vivre: 45th International Acadian Festival displays heritage in art, crafts, history

PETER SILAS PASQUA ppasqua@postsouth.com
A carousel bus full of children enjoy the midway at the 45th Annual International Acadian Festival on Sunday afternoon. The day's activities kicked off with the annual parade down Belleview Road. 
POST SOUTH PHOTO/Peter Silas Pasqua

PLAQUEMINE - The 45th Annual International Acadian Festival sponsored by the Knights of Columbus Plaquemine Council 970 got under way for its final day on Sunday morning with the Festival Parade down Belleview Road before moving to the C.M. "Mike" Zito Multi-Purpose Center.

The festival, spearheaded by Post/South founder Gary Hebert, began in 1969 to bring publicity and pride to the city of Plaquemine. Initially called the "Cajun Festival," it provided a link to the community of residents who were descended from the Acadians of Nova Scotia.

"Heritage is very important to our community," co-chairman Robby Navarre said. "We want to tell a story."

The festival acquired its current name the following year and moved to a permanent location south of the city where it stayed till 2005 when it was moved to its current location.

"Due to the response of the community, we had to grow and needed a bigger facility," Navarre said.

Funds generated at the festival are used for benefit dinners and projects throughout the year by the Knights of Columbus.

"Every bit of income from this festival will be used for church and school programs," Navarre said. "It is about giving back to the community and that is why we are out here."

The Evangeline Water Ceremony officially kicks off the festival's revelry a week prior following a Mass at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church spoken in both French and English

Costumed Native Americans paddle Indian Princesses by canoe down the torch lit Bayou Plaquemine as the sun sets to herald the

"Every year we tell the story about how the immigrants came through Louisiana and settled," Navarre said. "It is pretty interesting."

The brief re-enactment of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "Evangeline" focuses on the arrival of the namesake in search of her lost companion Gabriel and accompanied by her maidens.

"We have battled the weather and it doesn't stop us," Navarre said. "We put on a show.

"We want the citizens of Plaquemine and Iberville Parish to come out and enjoy themselves with their family. That is why we do this."

The festival also featured a rodeo, professional wrestling, beauty pageant, horseshoe tournament, karaoke and beer drinking contest this year.

"We want people to tell everybody this is the place to do," co-chairman Ryan Comeaux said.