Alliance Français de Lafayette kicks off membership drive and the 'Dome wants dollars.
GROWING ALLIANCE

There's a new organization for Francophiles in Acadiana. Alliance Français de Lafayette ' the newest member of a 100-year-old national federation promoting French language and culture ' just kicked off its membership drive. Faustine Hillard, an administrative assistant at CODOFIL and executive director of the new alliance, says the time is right. She regularly receives phone calls from locals needing travel information, as well as from visitors from France in search of French-speaking Louisianans. "There was a desire for a meeting place," she says. The alliance will provide a cultural meeting center for travelers, as well as an ambitious schedule of French classes and programming.

Building on local French conversation groups that Hillard describes as "islands of French," the alliance will offer classes in standard, Cajun and Creole French. "The lost generation, those from 30 to 60 years in age, their parents learned, their children are learning, they want to be able to talk to both," says Hillard. Beginner, intermediate and conversational French classes will be offered.

Wednesday nights the public is invited to activities ranging from lectures on the culture of Francophone counties to cinema français. French cooking classes, wine tastings, Francophone dinners, theatrical productions and storytelling for children are also in the works. Hillard particularly emphasizes the theatre, which is aimed at high school students who have completed French immersion programs. "Those who have come back from the four-week immersion in Nova Scotia, they have nowhere to continue," she says.

Classes and plays will be held at Cité Des Arts, building on an established tradition of conversational French meetings. The Acadiana Center for the Arts will host cultural activities as well. Other partners in the alliance include Louisiana Folk Roots, Le Centre International de Lafayette, UL Lafayette and Philippe's Wine Cellar. Classes and activities begin in October, and more information and membership rates are available by calling 262-5810. ' MT

DIRE DOME

During a Lafayette Consolidated Government budget session last week, Cajundome Director Greg Davis asked the city-parish council to step up its support of the aging arena, which will be 20 years old in November.

Davis wants local government to help him lobby the state for $10.5 million to renovate the dome. For the past three years, the state legislature has turned down the Cajundome's requests for the capital improvement funds. This has come in spite of the state's plans to spend more than $15 million for new civic centers in New Iberia and Shreveport, according to this year's capital outlay budget.

Davis argues that the increased competition the dome now faces from other regional arenas makes the need for renovations even more pressing. He warned the council that if the dome is not properly maintained, it could end up suffering the same fate as the Seattle Kingdome, which was imploded in 2000. 

The Cajundome's struggle to get state funding prompted Councilman Rob Stevenson to say, "It's time for our Lafayette delegation to get together and do something for us besides just holding office." ' NS

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