The Best Festival You've Never Been ToArticle by: Andrew Goodwin
Thu October 30, 2014 | 00:00 AM
It’s too bad that most people don’t really get to experience the rich cultural heritage of Louisiana, other than partaking in the bustling revelry of New Orleans. I must admit, as a transplant to the Big Easy, I was pretty ignorant as to what lay outside of the city when I first moved here. Beyond a few swamp tours and visits to the plantations, most of Louisiana was a mystery to me. I had been to Baton Rouge on a couple occasions, but beyond LSU and football, there wasn't much else that stood out to me there. I wanted to explore it more, but wasn’t sure how, and I wasn't ready to venture into Cajun country all on my own.
But then I got invited to attend Blackpot Music Festival & Cookoff right outside of Lafayette. This festival is probably the most authentic glimpse into Louisiana culture that I could have asked for, and may possibly be one of my favorite festivals that I’ve ever attended.
Blackpot is held at the Acadian Village, which is a replica of a 19th century Cajun town located just outside of Lafayette. You feel like you’ve gone back in time as you are surrounded by a showcase of authentic homes and shacks alongside a winding bayou which depict the unique Acadian architecture of that time.
Hundreds of folks huddle under an old barn, tapping their feet and dancing the autumn night away to the sounds of accordions, fiddles and washboards. The traditional dance is the two-step, but for those who are not familiar, they offer group lessons during the day. Of course, you can always just get out there and bounce around and shuffle your feet in any way that pleases you. It’s here that you'll find some of the best musicians in the state, bands like The Pine Leaf Boys, who play a lively variety of Cajun music and are annual performers at the event. Over the years, the festival has grown to include a variety of different types of music, including local bluegrass, swing, zydeco, jazz, blues and many other genres. It’s a tasty gumbo of music, food and culture from the region, all stirred up in one big, black pot.
Speaking of gumbo, after you’ve had your share of dancing, you can let your nose be your guide and follow the smells of amazing food being boiled up in those big ol' black pots and get your healthy serving of “Gaspogoo” or other strange dishes you'll be struggling to pronounce (as you ask for seconds). The lines are never long and you can discover a whole variety of flavorful eats that are local to the region like Alligator Pie or Llama Stew. Of course, there's always the standard Cajun and Creole fare like gumbo, red beans & rice, and Jambalaya...all of which are better here than anything you’ve had anywhere else, I promise.
After a successful day of eating, drinking and dancing, the party continues late through the night as attendees relocate back to their campsites and bust out their banjos and bottles of whiskey and start jamming while everyone dances and celebrates till the wee hours. Strangers all gather around the music to laugh and enjoy each other’s company and in those moments, you realize you never want to leave.
It’s all an amazingly authentic experience, and it’s only for 2 nights out of the year in late October when the weather has cooled and you can finally whip out your flannel shirts and dusty boots. It’s the type of festival that you crave after a summer full of expensive mega-festivals with crazy crowds and long lines. Although Blackpot has grown throughout the years, it still embodies that local, folks-gathering-in-the-backyard feeling that comes from bringing people together to celebrate with good music, good food and good friends. It’s a magical place.
Words and images by Andrew Goodwin