The French have a popular saying, “Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose”, the more things change, the more they stay the same; and that's the case for many festivals across the Bayou State.
Established in the late 1600's, Mardis Gras, Louisiana's first festival, was originally celebrated like a street fair. Since then these grand cultural celebrations have provided decades of entertainment overcoming obstacles like landscape changes and overcrowding, something Festival International de Louisiane saw this year with record attendance.
So how will they handle next year's crowds? That's the question we're finding answers for as we begin a series of reports we call, “Festival overcrowding, Crowd control”.
Festivals are a way of celebrating life in southwest Louisiana; our food, our music, our culture.
They mimic the street fairs of old – welcoming locals and those from far away and with each passing decade some festivals see their final days only to be replaced by new ones; while others stand the test of time and continue to re-invent themselves to please the masses. And it's the masses that can become problematic if the crowds get too large.
Case in point – Festival International 2013 saw some of the largest crowds to date.
The high attendance at this year's festival forced authorities to practice a little crowd control by literally not letting festival goers through the main stage gates at some point. They watched from the outside and that's forcing festival organizers to re-think the festival layout. And that's not all, Downtown Development Authority Director Nathan Norris says large crowds won't be the only obstacle, but buildings too.
“A stage may not be in a place anymore because there's a building there. What's going to happen once we have more buildings? In some places there's going to be buildings,” said Norris.
Norris is talking about the future of downtown; a future that has arrived with new residential construction already underway in some areas. He's quick to caution, change doesn't necessarily mean, “That we can't have music downtown. It just means we have to be more clever about where we put the stages.”