Zydeco artist Keith Frank sues St. Landry Parish

Keith Frank & Soileau Zydeco Band close out the 29th annual Zydeco Extravaganza at the Blackham Coliseum in Lafayette, La., Monday, May 25, 2015. Credit: Paul Kieu, The Advertiser

A Zydeco star whose concerts at the Yambilee building regularly pack the place is suing St. Landry Parish for an alleged breach of contract over his use of the venue.

Keith Frank announced the civil lawsuit Wednesday. In it, he named the parish government, owner of the building, and claimed that a year ago he’d signed a lease agreement and to use the air conditioned Yambilee for the annual Creole Renaissance Festival and paid the deposit with checks.

In a statement, Frank said the parish disregarded that agreement, but not before it cashed the checks.

After meeting with parish president Bill Fontenot and others, he said, he found out that “the booked dates would not be honored so that the building would be made available as a backup site for other local events in the case of inclement weather and it was necessary to give preference to residents of the parish for use of the Yambilee building.”

The 33rd annual Plaisance Zydeco Festival is scheduled for Saturday. Its director, Lena Charles with the Southern Development Foundation, has booked the Yambilee as an alternate site in case it rains on the open-air event.

Storms did move last year’s Plaisance event into the community room in Opelousas’ South Park, a much smaller venue than the grounds at Zydeco Park along U.S. 190.

For years, the occurrence of the Plaisance and Creole Renaissance festivals within an easy drive from one another on Labor Day weekend made St. Landry Parish a magnet for zydeco lovers from and beyond Acadiana.

Frank continued, “Because of the breach of contract, Frank was forced to move his annual Creole Renaissance Festival to the Rayne Civic Center Pavilion in Rayne. The breached contract and changed location have adversely altered his expenses, income and the potential outcome of these events.”

Rayne, in Acadia Parish, is a 37-mile drive from Opelousas.

The musician who calls himself the “Zydeco Boss” is a native of Soileau who tours widely and performs often in St. Landry Parish. Earlier this year he and his band, along with Chris Ardoin, volunteered their talents to a fundraising concert that raised money for the Opelousas High School Band participation in a Memorial Day parade in Washington, D.C.

“St. Landry Parish is a second home to me and my fans there are like family,” Frank said, “but what the parish government is doing with the Yambilee is unethical and potentially illegal.”

His lawsuit filed in 27th District Judicial Court seeks unspecified monetary damages and an admission from the parish government that it engaged in unfair and deceptive practices.

It also asks to reinstate the performance dates Keith Frank and the Soileau Zydeco Band had booked in 2016 and 2017 in conjunction with the Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Music Festival and the Step-N-Strut trail ride.

Parish president Bill Fontenot and Lena Charles with the Plaisance Zydeco Festival did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

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