This weekend, the Celtic Bayou Festival will bring Irish culture to downtown Lafayette courtesy of a couple with some serious Irish roots.
Tony and Sheila Davoren met while touring with "Riverdance." He was a musician and she was a dancer, and eventually they decided to tie the knot.
Tony’s tour drinking buddy, a Breaux Bridge native, introduced the couple to the Acadiana area, which eventually lead to them falling in love with and purchasing a house in Sunset, Louisiana.
Fifteen years later, the couple has put down roots in the area and is eager to share their Irish culture with Acadiana.
“Tony was born and raised in Ireland and I’ve been dancing at Irish festivals around the country since I was 14 years old,” says Sheila. “We would always get booked for the St. Patrick’s Day season in Lake Charles and Metairie, and we wanted to do something in this area but there was nothing here.”
Sheila and her husband decided to do something about it by starting their own festival in Lafayette.
“My idea was to do something very traditional and representative of the culture that could tie in Irish art and music," said Sheila. "The Cajun and Irish cultures are similar because they both have their own style of music, dance, food, and are known to be happy, partying people.”
Last year was the inaugural Celtic Bayou Festival and this year’s festival will be much the same with a few new twists.
The festival kicks off on Friday night in Parc Putnam in downtown Lafayette with a crawfish boil that will take place to the background of Irish, Scottish, Cajun and Celtic bands on the main stage.
Saturday morning will officially kick off at noon, after an Irish blessing is given on the main stage at 11:45 a.m., and begin with a pub crawl through downtown.
Throughout the day, activities on the four stages will include music, a genealogy tent, a kids scavenger hunt, Irish dance lessons and a young musicians competition.
Sheila encourages those who have never tried Irish dancing to not be shy about trying the activity.
“There will be Irish, Scottish and Contra dancing, which is sort of a grandchild of Irish dancing and is very similar to square dancing," said Sheila. "Even if you’ve never taken a workshop in Irish dancing before, you can come and our instructors will teach you everything you need to know.”
One of the biggest events of the weekend will be the Guinness cook off, which Sheila claims is the only one like it in the world.
“We researched it and there is not one cook-off in the entire world that we found that incorporates Guinness Beer,” says Sheila. “The only requirement is that you use Guinness in your recipe in some way, whether it’s in a gravy, a sauce or you marinated your meat in it.”
Tony will put his musical skills on display when he performs with his band, Keljin, on Friday night and on Saturday during a children’s showing of a Celtic mythological movie, which he composed music for and narrated.
The festival operates as a non-profit, so the time the Davorens dedicate to putting it on is completely voluntary.
“We feel so moved to do this,” says Sheila. “We’re very proud of our heritage and culture and we really want to see the community come together.”
Admission to the festival is $10 and free for children ages 12 and under.
The crawfish that will be served Friday night must be pre-ordered, but gumbo will also be sold onsite for those who did not place their orders in time.
For more information or a schedule of events visit celticbayoufest.com or call 337-255-4372.
Sweet Crude at Levy Park, Fri., March 10, 5:30 p.m. – 8 p.m., Crowley
Sweet Crude is a French band committed to keeping the French language alive through their indie-rock music. Natives of New Orleans, they formed in 2013 and sing their songs in part English and part Cajun French. They will perform a free show at Levy Park in Crowley on March 10.
Art Workshop at the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum, Sat., March 11, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m., Lafayette
Participants in this art workshop hosted by the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum will be lead through a tour and hands on wooden sculpture project. It’s a great way for couples, friends and family to come together and create. Tickets are $20 for nonmembers and $15 for members.
LA CASI Cajun Chili Fest, Sat., March 11, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., Youngsville
This year’s Cajun Chili Fest will be held in memory of Lynn Howell. All you can eat chili will be served for five dollars. There will be raffles and refreshments and all proceeds will go to the families served by Family Promise of Acadiana.
TEDxLSU 2017, Sat., March 11, 1 p.m. – 6:30 p.m., Baton Rouge
Gather at the LSU Student Union Theatre to hear from speakers and leaders making big moves in areas like psychology, economics and 3-D printing. TEDxLSU was started as a way to foster growth and discussion in Baton Rouge using the TED motto of promoting, “Ideas worth spreading.” Tickets can be purchased at tedxlsu.com.