September 20, 2003
LAFAYETTE — Christine Balfa-Powell said it best: “We basically have to be ourselves, and people will come.”
At the Lafayette Economic Development Authority on Friday, the entire day focused on music, tourism and the economic impact culture can, and does, have on Acadiana.
State tourism officials, musicians, scholars and music lovers gathered for the day-long seminar, sponsored by the Center for Cultural and Eco-Tourism at UL Lafayette.
Carl Brasseaux, director of the center, said that by having conferences like this one with “research and grounded in fact,” locals have the opportunity to discuss how to market their cultural to outsiders without turning the culture itself into a caricature of itself.
“You’re looking at an emerging industry in a state of evolution,” he said.
The keynote address was delivered by Phillip Jones, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.
“Here in Louisiana,” Jones said, “we have the most interesting, unique and vibrant culture in the nation.”
Jones said that tourism is the second largest industry in Louisiana and that the state has beaten national averages in tourism growth for the last seven years. Local music, he said, has been a key to fueling that success.
“Music sells,” he said, “and it sells very well.”
Jones showed a marketing video promoting Louisiana as a tourist destination. He said the video is played at trade shows, tourism bureaus and conferences. The video opened with images of a foggy bayou, followed by images of zydeco musician Nathan Williams playing music in a shack on the bayou, an alligator crossing a road, and a young Cajun accordionist Hunter Hayes entertaining a crowd. There were also images of New Orleans, Mardi Gras Indians, streetcars and Café Du Monde.
Dolores Spears, director of the Zigler Museum in Jennings, said she believed the video focuses too heavily on New Orleans.
“I know it’s the hook,” she said, “I just would like to see more of the state represented. We also need to help promote smaller areas, because we don’t have the money to do that.”
Jones said that 48 percent of Louisiana’s tourists are heading for New Orleans, and the majority of them travel 100 miles outside of the city.
“Lafayette has its own identity,” and has the unique ability to draw on tourists from New Orleans and Houston, he said.
Christine Balfa-Powell, of Balfa Toujours and executive director of Louisiana Folk Roots, along with Dave Spizale, program director for KRVS-FM, discussed the interest for Louisiana’s music outside of the state and possible ways to connect with outsiders to the local culture.
The conference closed with a panel discussion of local music efforts currently underway.
John Laudun said that UL Lafayette may place the library’s Cajun and Creole recording archives on a compact disc series, titled the Folk Master series. Todd Mouton discussed the history of the Louisiana Crossroads music series. Zydeco musician Terrance Simien spoke of his compact disc “Creole for Kidz;” while his wife, Cynthia Simien, elaborated on her campaign to create a Cajun and zydeco Grammy category.
The day concluded with a performance by Terrance Simien and 5-year-old accordionist Guyland Leday.