Cajuns Explore Acadian Roots With A Special Day


LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — Gracie Babineaux needs no lectures on Cajun culture. Gracie and her sister, Julie, have played Cajun music across the United States and Europe as leaders of the Babineaux Sisters band.

Gracie has taught the music to college students as an instructor in the Dr. Tommy Comeaux Endowed Chair in Traditional Music at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

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But for Babineaux, Cajun goes beyond the standard checklist of music, food, language and a French last name.

"Being Cajun to me is something that should be easy," said Babineaux, a 20-year-old junior majoring in environmental geology at UL. "You help out the people you love and the people you don't.

"You learn everything you can about old traditions, but you always try to make new ones. You are grateful for what you have and work hard for what you want.

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"Being Cajun doesn't equal uneducated either. Even though a lot of my family wasn't able to continue to college, that doesn't mean they weren't capable. They are some of the most intelligent people I know."

The Babineaux Sisters pay tribute to their exiled ancestors from Nova Scotia at the annual Acadian Culture Day Sunday at Vermilionville. This free event coincides with National Acadian Day, which is held every year on Aug. 15 in Canada.

The Vermilionville celebration explores Cajun heritage through its Acadian roots. Its 2018 theme is "What's Happening Now."

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Participants can give their perspectives on "Being Cajun Today" in a sharing circle. Community booths will offer information on the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, the Acadian Memorial in St. Martinville and the Richard Guidry Foundation, which promotes the French language through arts and education.

Representatives of the New Acadia Project will detail efforts to locate, identify and investigate 18th century homesteads and unmarked gravesites of Acadian exiles in south central Louisiana.

"We're inviting the community to come out for a day of cultural exchange," said Shawntell Lewis, director of communications for the Bayou Vermilion District. "You can learn more about the contributions, the language, music and immense contributions that have been made by the Acadian people throughout southwest Louisiana."

The Babineaux Sisters perform from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday in Vermilionville's Performance Center. Jason Bergeron plays from 3 to 5 p.m., after Cajun dance lessons from Lou and Cal Courville.

Other activities include:

— An open Cajun jam session for all skill levels

— A French table

— Boat tours and canoeing

— Film screenings

— Historic and contemporary cooking demonstrations

— Kids' crafts

— Demonstrations of trapping, musket firing, courir des bois, fiddle and accordion making, and more

Photographer and visual artist Darryl Chitty unveils "Louisiana Proud: The Cajun Experience," an exhibit of paintings that will remain on display through September. A native of Terrebonne Parish, Chitty has been twice named Louisiana Artist of the Year.

Visitors can also participate in a "tintamarre," a traditional parade with instruments and noise makers to celebrate National Acadian Day. The practice is believed to be based on the folk custom of "charivari," when newlyweds were serenaded by marchers banging on pots and pans.

"Anyone can join in the celebration," said Lewis. "We encourage people to come out an bring their pots and pans.

"There's going to be a ruckus in the village. A lot of people carry their family names. If they have them, they can bring that as well."

Babineaux looks forward to the sharing of old and new customs Sunday at Vermilionville.

"It's a whole new world that we are entering when it comes to our culture and it's so exciting," said Babineaux. "It's showing everyone in this area that we can keep this beautiful culture alive by learning from the past and creating into the future."

– by Herman Fuselier, AP reporter

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