Festival International de Louisiane
Saturday, April 30, 2011
No disrespect to my home town, but the difference in behavior and attitude between a huge crowd of Bostonians and a huge crowd of Louisianans is like comparing clam chowder and chicken and andouille gumbo. Worlds apart.
Lord knows, the people here aren’t all of the same stripe any more than Bostonians. Both groups have regional loyalties and passion for things they love.
Differences? Where do I start. I haven’t seen one drunken fool, quiet or obstreperous, yet. People make eye contact. More often than not, they greet you with smile or a “Hello.” They (young and old) say “Excuse me” if they bump into you. One of the few times I sat down at the super crowded Keb’Mo show a guy (could have been a woman or a kid) bumped into the back of my chair while threading through the throng behind me then tapped my shoulder in a silent “Sorry.”
While I was trying to take photos of the Honey Island Swamp Band over the shoulders of a line of tall guys, one of them turned around and said, “Want to get a closer shot?” and moved aside to let me do just that.
The groups of young people have fun without being stupid drunk or stupid acting.
Saturday afternoon I decided to plant myself in the middle of Jefferson Street, about ten blocks of it closed to motor traffic, to watch the parade of humanity march past me.
It feels like half of Louisiana has shown up here in all its glorious gumbo mix of class, race, age, and social strata.
Name a type of family unit, it’s here – traditional, gay with two male parents, or two female parents, are sauntering along with interracial couples and groups of friends, grand parents with grandchildren in hand, and oh the visuals, Goths, hippies from 60s to new age versions, Punkers, pierced, tattooed, purple dyed hair, spiked or no hair, shaved pates, lots of cowboy hats, sun bonnets, ball caps, afro head scarves, colorful cotton summer dresses, tie dyed tops, halters, jeans, shorts, T-shirts, lots of chirping on cell phones, or, more the case, in real face to face, animated conversations, in real time, because this is nothing but a super, real time event , a jet stream of humanity meandering down the closed main street of the Lafayette business district, occasionally breaking off into small clouds to chat, connect while music floats over the entire scene, faintly as it bends around buildings from distant stages, more stridently from open doors of bars and restaurants up and down the street, and the strange sight to this Yankee of everyone toting plastic cups filled with beer, wine or something made with mineral spirits, drinking it to enjoy it, not to escape by chugging it.
I can’t count the times I’ve asked the locals about this. “It’s a way of life here, nothing out of the ordinary, we do this all the time,” they say.
Last time I checked, I saw that there are more than 400 festivals in Louisiana every year. The people are used to being sardined into big crowds, surrounded by loads of their favorite foods and tons of cold beer to wash it down. Cajun, creole, Irish, German, or Italian, their ancestors might have been born down the road or in the next parish. They’re right at home and if they see that you respect their culture, they’ll make you feel right at home, too.
Photos by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.