What could make Festival Acadiens et Creole even more special?

Photo courtesy: The Daily Advertiser

And it will be literally heading — as in a procession — to Girard Park for the 41st opening of Festivals Acadiens et Creoles.

Makes you wonder how, after 41 years, the fine folks at FAetC, come up with new ideas to keep the all things Cajun and Creole fresh and fun all these years.

“You would think over that length of time, dealing with a finite culture in this area, the ideas keep hitting us in the face. It’s great” said Barry Ancelet, co-founder of the cultural fete and president of the FAetC board. “This year, in honor of the 250th anniversary of the arrival of the Acadiens in South Louisiana, we decided to do a celebration that calls attention to that fact.”

Tintamarre at Bouctouche, New Brunswick. (Photo courtesy: Barry Ancelet/The Daily Advertiser)
Tintamarre at Bouctouche, New Brunswick. (Photo courtesy: Barry Ancelet/The Daily Advertiser)

The celebration marries two traditions. The first goes back to the roots of Cajuns, way back to when they were known as Acadians.

“A Tintamarre is what happened when the Acadians who had avoided the exile, who had escaped in the woods in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia after 1755 were keeping a low profile,” Ancelet said. “They were hiding in the woods, basically. The historians refer to it as ‘100 years of Silence in the Woods.'”

As time passed and the Acadians figured out that they may be OK after all.

“So they started coming out of the woods and in the old French tradition of the charivari, which was based on the notion that if there was some sort of social problem, everybody got in the streets, made noise, called attention to it and forced a resolution to the problem.

“So, they not only came out of the woods, but they got into the streets, started banging pots and pans; blowing whistles and horns and yelling and screaming and dressing in colorful costumes,” he said.

All of this took place in the 1880s, Ancelet said and it coincided with the emergence of the development of the Acadian flag, the Acadian National Conferences, an anthem: “All kinds of national identity stuff was going,” he said.

“This Tintamarre tradition came to be attached to an expression of Acadians survival, Acadian national identity, and it’s been celebrated ever since,” he said, with the intention to “call attention to this sort of expression of solidarity, expression of pride and identity. And freedom.”

The other quotient to the formula can be found about 40 days before Easter, and even before that.

“We do something different — we already had a procession — it’s called Mardi Gras,” said Ancelet. “And Mardi Gras is one of a collection of processions that starts right after Christmas — well, actually, Christmas caroling is part of that, too — and it goes all the way up to Easter where there are several moments in that part of the year where would people get out in the streets and process.”

But don’t get the idea that south Louisiana and the Maritimes don’t have a corner on the procession market.

“Every single spot where the French has settled in North America, even in places where the language has faded, like Missouri or Illinois and places where the language still thrives, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and even Louisiana, there were these traditions of processions,” Ancelet said. “And what they were about was affirming community; expressing community solidarity. These processions go through the streets in the spot that they consider their place. They celebrate their place and themselves.”

So with that in mind and the Grand Réveil Acadien winding down about that time, too, uniting traditions was the logical thing to do.

“What we’re going to do is combine those two very closely related processional traditions of Tintamarre and Mardi Gras,” said Ancelet. “And make a TintaMardiGras.”

Yep. You read that correctly: TintaMardiGras. And, yes, it will be what it sounds like, according to Patrick Mould, vice president of programming and development of FAetC

“We have a couple of country Mardi Gras — Courir de Mardi Gras — we have the Ossun Mardi Gras and the Basile Mardi Gras are going to come and process,” said Mould. “We have the city version of Mardi Gras, which is the Lafayette Mardi Gras Association. It’s going to provide a couple of floats.”

In addition to the floats, you can also look for a brass band, the 12th Street Indians in costume and you yourself with a noise-maker in hand and a costume all over.

And it all begins around 4:30 p.m. at the Ragin’ Cajun Red Zone parking lot at Lewis and Johnston streets. It will head down St. Mary, wind through the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus, around to Girard Park and on up to the Festival Stage where the Friday night concert opens with an Acadian Connection concert.

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