Skip to main content


Events in the Louisiana program at the Festival spoke to the context created by the unique history and geography of that part of the continent, where rich forms of creolization, or cultural mixture, have flourished. Creative blending of cultural aesthetics and repertoires has also occurred in other places in our country, but in few places to as great an extent and with the public vitality of the traditional cultures of Louisiana. To hear the diversity of musical styles, to see the varied dance and craft traditions, and to taste the renowned foods of the region should all lead one to reflect on the social and environmental conditions that brought Africans, American Indians, Anglo Americans, French, Spanish and other groups together in ways that led to the rich mixtures of language and culture distinctive of "The Creole State."

The Louisiana program at the Festival of American Folklife presented the best of traditional life to show how folk cultural resources can help sustain the State in the future if properly encouraged. Previous festivals showed Louisiana folk culture primarily in terms of Cajun and New Orleans musical traditions. The 1985 Festival attempted to correct this imbalance by presenting the traditions of the entire State: south Louisiana, north Louisiana, the Florida Parishes and New Orleans.

Perhaps because Louisiana as a whole still speaks with diverse and contrasting voices of tradition, the State was just beginning to recognize and support programs that conserve and promote its folk cultures at the time of the Festival. In 1985 the legislature in Baton Rouge was considering first- time funding for the Louisiana Folklife Program. The efforts of the Smithsonian Institution and other groups over the preceding 20 years through fieldwork, sound recordings and festival presentation had done much to assist the conservation and renaissance of Cajun culture. Those presenting New Orleans culture had long emphasized tourist promotion but with less attention to the conservation of what some have called "the cultural wetlands" of the city, that is, its root traditions and communities. But the cultures of the Florida Parishes and north Louisiana had remained virtually ignored until quite recently. Festival planners hoped that the celebratory mingling of all the regions and cultures of Louisiana at the 1985 Festival would bring them their due applause that could be heard back home.

Susan Levitas and Larry Deemer served as Louisiana Program Coordinators, with Kate Porterfield as Assistant Coordinator, and Nicholas Spitzer as Consultant.

The Louisiana program was made possible by the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism through the Louisiana Office of Tourism and private donations through the Louisiana Heritage Foundation.

Previous | Next >

Support the Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, sustainability projects, educational outreach, and more.