From Andouille to Zydeco: A Celebration of Louisiana's Flavors
It’s a long summer in South Louisiana, so fall is especially appreciated. Kinda like spring in most parts of the country. Because of the drop in temperature and fall harvests, there are literally dozens and dozens of food festivals to visit.
It all begins on Labor Day weekend with the annual Louisiana Shrimp & Petroleum Festival in Morgan City, one of the oldest festivals in Louisiana. This year marks the festival’s 81st year celebrating both shrimp and petroleum at one function. The name may sound funny to visitors, but these are the two industries that have shaped Morgan City and its environs. The free event from September 1-5 includes almost non-stop live music, arts and crafts, a parade, Cajun cuisine (featuring fresh Gulf shrimp, of course) and the annual Blessing of the Fleet.
In nearby St. Martinville, they celebrate the hot side of South Louisiana cuisine in the annual Pepper Festival - on September 16-17 with cook-offs, a 5K run, and queens pageant. Next door in New Iberia, it’s all about the sweetness at the 75th annual Louisiana Sugar Cane Festival from September 22-25.
It’s a funny play on words, but there’s wonderful things being served up at the Calca-Chew Food Festival September 25 in Lake Charles (Calcasieu is the name of the parish). Centered around the area’s French heritage, the festival includes South Louisiana favorites such as boudin, étouffée, and jambalaya at the city’s St. Margaret Family Life Center.
Festivals Acadiens et Créoles - which is actually a collection of several festivals - will be October 13-16 this year throughout Girard Park in Lafayette. In addition to fabulous Cajun and zydeco music on several stages, arts and crafts, and folklife, all kinds of fabulous things to eat will be offered at the Bayou Food Festival. There will also be cooking demonstrations and lectures. There’s even a boudin cutting ceremony to open the festival!
South Louisiana is home to dairy farms and cattle ranches, so it’s natural that there would be an annual Louisiana Cattle Festival. Held the first full weekend in October (Oct. 13-16) in Abbeville, the festival includes cooking contests, street fair, parade, live music, and a livestock show, among other events.
The International Rice Festival – which is held on October 20-23 - in downtown Crowley is another long-standing Louisiana fête. This year marks the 79th anniversary with live music, arts and crafts, and carnival rides, but also fabulous eating involving one of South Louisiana’s largest crops. Part of the festival is the competitive rice cooking contests, with its coveted Chef de Riz title.
Not exactly a food festival, but more of a giant costume party is the Rougarou Fest October 22-23 in downtown Houma. USA Today ranked the Rougarou Fest as one of the “Top 10 Best Costume Parties in the United States”, and the Southeast Tourism Society selected the Rougarou Fest as a “Top 20 Event during the month of October”. Don’t worry, you can bet there will be plenty of great Cajun food served.
Great Acadian dishes are delivered from a single pot which is why Lafayette celebrates its cuisine with the Black Pot Festival & Cookoff October 28-29 at Vermilionville. You can watch people –from Amateur to Professional - compete for the best single pot dish. Enjoy the samples, and listen to amazing music at the new location. There’s even tent camping sites available at the fairgrounds, so you can make it a weekend.
It takes 5,000 eggs, 40 pounds of crawfish tails, and many dashes of Tabasco — among other ingredients — to create the giant omelette served at Abbeville’s Giant Omelette Celebration. It’s a fall tradition in the town just south of Lafayette, and once it’s cooked on a 12-foot skillet with several chefs, everyone gets a taste. The story has its origins with Napoleon when he and his army were traveling near the French town of Bessieres and enjoyed an omelette by a local innkeeper. Napoleon ordered the townspeople to prepare one large enough for his army. Abbeville residents heard of this legend while traveling through Bessieres, and decided to create a giant omelette of their own. This year’s Giant Omelette Celebration will be November 5-6 and will include arts and crafts, live music, and the procession of chefs following the Omelette Mass at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church.
And that’s just the tip of the “black pot”. For a listing of festivals in Louisiana — food or otherwise — visit local tourism websites or check local media.
Cheré Dastugue Coen is a freelance food and travel writer and author living in Lafayette. Her books include “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Tour of Acadiana” and “Haunted Lafayette.”