We have a deep love of Lafayette, Louisiana but truth be told we’ve done little more than explore the boudin parlors of the region.
We’ve never spent anytime in the city on a ramble, chatting with the citizenry, taking photos, listening to music or otherwise engaging the culture.
After all, we’re only in it for the boudin.
This past weekend we put paid to our wide range of offenses by spending an entire day at Festival International, the sprawling music party that takes over Lafayette’s entire downtown to show New Orleans how to party, at least one weekend per year.
There were tens of thousands of people on the stroll, eating, guzzling cans of beer, sitting in Coleman chairs, dancing to zydeco, smoking, and socializing with one another at what felt like the biggest outdoor party in the history of Louisiana.
Sorry Jazz Fest.
We rolled in bright and early, parked at Cajun Field and hopped on a shuttle bus to be deposited one block from the Festival a mere five minutes later.
We immediately chasten a police officer to point us towards the food as we are famished and need sustenance before life fades from our bones.
Polk Street has been turned into an ad hoc food court as dozens of vendors have set up booths stocked with Fried Oysters, Boudin Balls, Cajun Fried Chicken On A Stick, Sno Balls, Alligator Kebabs, Meat Pies, Bacon Cheese Burgers, Sausage Po Boys, Crawfish Etouffe, Fried Catfish Platters, Frog Legs, Shrimp And Grits, Red Beans And Rice, Spinach Boats, Pork Nachos and a host of other carnival food delicacies.
After a char-grilled oyster starter we get on the hotfoot to take in some sights and sounds before inevitably circling back to Polk Street for more chow.
This goes on for hours: Eat a modest amount of food, circle through the vast festival grounds taking pictures and talking to strangers, then head straight back to Polk Street to start the whole thing again.
A Cajun circle of life.
Halfway through the day we get the dropsies and need some air conditioning post haste. We stop a nice policeman and ask where he would go if wanted a cold beer to cool off and he recommends Prime, a nearby watering hole.
Prime is a mite thuggish and odd but it serves its purpose of providing cold refreshment. A group of neighborhood toughs are parked at the bar recounting their exploits of the previous evening and they provide some crude entertainment.
Leaving Prime we ask another officer if there’s a good tavern where we might enjoy a dram or two and he recommends Antlers, an old bar that is coming up on a century of operation.
We purchase a meat pie from the concern’s sidewalk operation and step into the gloaming recesses of the establishment where a group of drinkers are hollering and laughing their heads off.
Antlers is fine, the folks are friendly and the beer is cold and cheap.
After a good 20 minute hang we make our way outside to see about finding a live band to dance to.
While it’s true that our vinyl collection has grown so large that it’s no longer countable, we no longer view our lives through the lens of music.
Gone are the days when we evangelized to coax people into going out to see shows seven nights a week.
We still go, we just no longer care if anyone else is there.
But then you hear a band like Dakhabrakha from the Ukraine and all bets are off.
We saw countless acts perform at Festival International and Dakhabrakha were easily the finest.
Urgent. Primal. Sexed up. Confusing. Plaintive. Overdriven.
After a full day of rich foods and hot music we bade farewell to Lafayette.
We had the time of our lives but we had to make Youngsville’s NuNu’s Meat Market before they closed for the day.
We had spent an entire day in Acadiana and not had one bite of boudin.