BATON ROUGE, La.--Much of the appeal of Louisiana to modern
visitors is derived from Creole and Cajun music and food. Even
traditionally conservative north Louisiana has begun borrowing from
its neighbors in the state's Acadian regions.
"Mudbug Madness" is now
an annual event in Shreveport, the state's northernmost major city.
Mudbug is a term sometime given to crawfish, which has become a
staple of Cajun cuisine.
Cajun and zydeco bands appear regularly on national radio and
television, as well as in England, according to the LCVB. There are
native Cajun bands everywhere, as well as Cajun restaurants. Chefs
like Paul Prudhomme and John Folse are busily shipping out Cajun
spices, recipes and even complete frozen dinners all over the
It is instances such as these that make 1999 a year of great
expectations on the part of tourism promoters and the statewide
FrancoFete effort. "We are using heritage tourism in a new way,"
said Phillip Jones, head of the Louisiana Department of Culture,
Recreation and Tourism. "We understand that we owe something to the
cultural mix that makes Louisiana unique among the states. If we
don't honor and expand upon our heritage, we are in danger of
losing out to the homogenized, one-size-fits-all culture that has
become common in many parts of the U.S.," he said.
FrancoFete also will attract headline events to the state
throughout the year that have a French twist. Negotiations have
been completed for an exhibition of Edgar Degas paintings at the
New Orleans Museum of Art from May to August. Degas had family in
New Orleans and spent time in the Big Easy, creating more than two
dozen works there.
"We are exploring a wide range of special events, many of which
will involve corporate sponsorships," said Curtis Joubert, director
of FrancoFete. In addition, he said, the organizers are working
within the state to bring the message home to Louisiana citizens,
through local press and television associations in state.
Joubertis the former mayor of Eunice, a southern Louisiana town
he helped put on the map with a weekly radio broadcast in French
from a restored vaudeville house. The show is presented by the
National Park Service on Saturday nights and features music and
repartee all in French. Now it is hosted by Barry Ancelet who
mingles with enthusiastic dancers who are as apt to hail from
Australia as from Louisiana. Ancelet is one of the early leaders of
the renaissance of pride in the French heritage of Louisiana.
At one time, that heritage was looked down upon, as efforts were
made to try to drag a rural Southern state into modern times. By
the year 2000, Louisiana's officials hope to have strengthened the
state's appreciation for its French heritage, as well as added
enthusiasm for the preservation of the French language.