Louisiana visitors to New Brunswick show their colors – the flags of Acadie and Acadiana.
Photo by Mary Tutwiler
Ici, on est fier de parler français. That pride in our French heritage, along with a clarion call that our language is as fragile as our wetlands, is the essence of Louisiana’s bid to host the 2014 Congrès Mondial Acadien. The Congrès Mondial Acadien is a reuniting of the scattered families of Acadie — the French settlers of eastern Canada, who were driven from their homes by the British in 1755. While the towns of the Acadien Peninsula in New Brunswick, Canada, ramp up for this August’s CMA, other Francophone locales are putting their final touches on presentations for a committee of judges, who will choose where the descendents of Acadie will gather in another five years. Louisiana is competing against Québec, and an international region named Acadie of Lands and Forests, that groups Northern Maine, Northwestern New Brunswick and a small part of Eastern Québec.
Judging for Louisiana will take place June 22. The state’s steering committee, Louisiane-Acadie, is planning a mini-festival, a little taste of why Acadiana should win the bid. Beginning with a talk at the visitor center at Longfellow-Evangeline State Park, judges will experience what Cajuns do best — pass a good time. There will be a Fête de famille, (a mini family reunion) with genealogy exhibits, and a French table where people can come together and speak French. Fires will light under a cochon de lait, fiddles will strike up and dancers will hit the floor. “It’s not so much about tourism,” says Elaine Clément, Louisiane-Acadie vice-president and CODOFIL Community Outreach Director, “as inviting the judges to experience us as we are.”
Aside from the cultural value, there are economic engines driving the bid process as well. Travelers to the state are expected to spend in the neighborhood of $15 million. Once activities begin, the economic spin-off is calculated at nearly $70 million. Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission Executive Director Gerald Breaux has been championing the bid process. “I feel that if we are successful in being awarded the Congrès, it will have dramatic impact on South Louisiana as a true destination for those visitors interested in a true culturally experience in North America.” Clément attended the first Congrès Mondial, held in New Brunswick in 1994. “It was almost like a surprise,” she says. “Our history is that we were separated — there was a genocide and we were thrown all over the world. The Congrès was like being reunited with siblings that have been separated since birth.” And it happens every five years. “There’s something powerful every time we get back together,” says Clément.
That first gathering in 1994 was centered around a five-day academic conference held at the University of Moncton. According to Clément, hardly anybody went to the conference, but dozens of family reunions spontaneously sprung up. “They had 3,000 people show up at the LeBlanc reunion,” she says. “It wasn’t only that people looked like you; we share a way of looking at the world, a sense of humor, a way of interacting. It was like being with my family.”
Louisiana hosted the 1999 reunion of the Acadian families, and again, it was a totally new experience for the Cajun descendents of the Acadians. That first time in Louisiana, people didn’t know what a Congrès was, but they did know how to throw a party for their cousins. There are more than a million people of Cajun descent, the largest concentration of Acadians in the world, in southwest Louisiana. Even so, many Cajuns had no knowledge of their family lines. “You look at the Moncton phone book. If you leave off the “x,” the names in it look just like the names in the Lafayette phone book.” The connection that was forged between Acadie and Acadiana grows stronger every year.
This time around, the Louisiane-Acadie committee is trying to grow the Congrès, bringing in a younger generation that has come of age through the French immersion programs in local schools or honed their French at St. Anne University in Nova Scotia. “We want to use the energy of the Congrès to grow our community and move us forward,” Clément says. “The purpose is to get like-minded youth together who share a love for our heritage,” says Lucius Fontenot, “and to let us see we’re not as few as we think we are. We usually gather at the Blue Moon once a month.” Fontenot, a partner in Valcour Records, studied at St. Anne, and is deeply involved in French cultural actives in the community.
The young group brainstormed programming ideas for the bid. Its contribution was born out of a popular event, also created by the younger generation of Cajuns. The Camp du Cajuns, a part of the presentation on the 22nd, will be a camping-RV setting for travelers that offers inexpensive lodging. Like the popular Black Pot Festival, brainchild of the Red Stick Ramblers, the Camp du Cajuns, if Louisiana wins the bid, will offer music, dancing and jam sessions each night of the Congrès.
Louisiane-Acadie is asking the community to give it a hand with the presentation. Anyone who would like to participate in the mini-festival is invited to join in between noon and 3 p.m. June 22 at the Longfellow-Evangeline State Park in St. Martinville. For more information, call 291-5489, or email bid director Rachelle Dugas at
. For information about this year’s Congrès Mondial Acadien in New Brunswick, Aug. 6 to Aug. 23, visit the CMA Web site atwww.cma2009.caorwww.tourismnewbrunswick.ca
JUNE 20 Here's the transcript of the esteemed journalist Rush Limbaugh's recent spot on Sen. Elbert Guillory. Guillory's video explaining why all black folks need to go running right over to the GOP (and no, one of the reasons given is not that you can't get elected Lt. Gov. as a "D" in this state) is "amazing" and a "tear-jerker" to Mr. Limbaugh. Of course, he doesn't mention that Guillory thought enough of the D party to join it so he could get elected to the state senate. But Rush doesn't disappoint; he does manage to make the spot about him in the end.
JUNE 20 Here's a WBRZ investigative piece on a foundation in Baton Rouge that may have some problems. Like what, you ask? How about under-reporting income by $700K or having a member who gets contributions by telling folks about her mystical experiences? This lady says it all began 30 years ago when a bishop who died "spoke" to her from his coffin, letting her know that she was not "out of her head." Um, OK.
JUNE 20 Here's another analysis (or post-mortem, as the case may be) for Gov. Jindal's recent post in Politico. This time, it's from the editorial board of the LSU Reveille. The kids say there were some problems with the column; mostly, they were related to Jindal insulting his friends, his enemies, and everyone in between, including himself. The contradictions Jindal displayed weren't lost on these students -- or anybody else.
JUNE 20 This post by the editorial board of the Picayune congratulates former Saint Steve Gleason on the "inspiring" way the man has responded to a mean-spirited and just plain appalling skit on a radio station about him and ALS, the paralyzing and fatal disease he has. As usual, the editorial states, Gleason directed attention from himself and to the disease, which he says is misunderstood, underfunded and ignored. Maybe this will bring some attention to the disease, the board writes.
JUNE 20 The Advocate posts this story about the sudden death of James Gandolfini, the television, stage and film actor probably best known for his role as Tony Soprano on the HBO series. Gandolfini died while vacationing in Italy, the story reports. He won three Emmys for the Sopranos role, but also was honored with a Tony nomination for God of Carnage.
JUNE 20 Clancy DuBos writes here about the legal, financial and political quagmire that is NOLA law enforcement these days. Sheriff Gusman and Mayor Landrieu are facing off in federal court, and as DuBos says, the stakes are high. Gusman's prison is "a hellhole," DuBos writes, and Landrieu claims the books there are "deliberately unfathomable." Gusman says everything's hunky dory, but it would be better if he got more money from Landrieu. What a mess.
JUNE 20 Blogger Tom Aswell says Gov. Jindal needs to quit touring the country bragging about his "gold standard" of ethics reform -- because it just ain't true. Aswell gives us a lot of statistics on our dismal ethics record, including a long list of violations committed by our fearless leaders and political groups. Taken all at once, it's not a pretty picture, and certainly not a golden one.
JUNE 20 This post in the Picayune reports that a contractor pleaded guilty to a bribery scheme that involved fake bids and kickbacks. The contractor said he cut a deal with a guy working for Orleans Sheriff Gusman to submit fake bids so his real company could "win" work for the sheriff, the story says. The former sheriff's employee already has pleaded guilty, the story says. Meanwhile, Sheriff Gusman says he hasn't been contacted by any investigators.
JUNE 20 Here's a Huff Post blog by Jason Linkins, taking a few shots at Gov. Jindal for his recent Politico column. For instance, he takes issue with Jindal's advice that the GOP "stop the bedwetting," pointing out that there were certainly some Jindal-positive patches on those damp sheets. But the main gist of the column is that Jindal was singing one tune back in November, but he's using a different score now. Either way, it's hitting a sour note with Linkins.
Frank’s Casing Crew, now doing business as Frank’s International, will make its final appearance on ABiz’s list of the Top 50 Privately Held Companies in Acadiana this year, and once again it will likely be at the top with more than $1 billion in annual revenues. The 75-year-old company specializing in tubular fabrication and installation services to the oil and gas industry plans to offer shares of its stock to the public for the first time.
The defeat, or rather highjacking of House Bill 420 in the final days of this year's Legislative Session, say Reps. Vincent Pierre and Terry Landry, is the result of the propaganda spread by one unidentified local media outlet and an unnamed former state Representative, but nothing to do with the original legislation's lack of checks, balances or details.
He’s a singer. A songwriter. A piano man. A family man. He’s even got his own Wikipedia entry. He’s David Egan. And he knows ancient secrets about the monolithic stones of Stonehenge that he’s not willing to share.