Louisiana and Festivals: A Match Made in Heaven A Showcasing Louisiana story by Jeff Morrow


Travel just about anywhere across the state and there's sure to be a celebration of some sort almost every day, and certainly every weekend.

Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser heads the state’s tourism efforts.

If you can eat it, shoot it, catch it, or dance to it, we have a festival named after it." -Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser
Music and school programs entertain the crowds at the annual International Rice Festival in Crowley (Source: Rice Festival Facebook page)

Indeed, festival themes range from food, animals, and commodities to culture and of course, music. There isn’t a complete, definitive list, but it's believed there're between 400 and 450 festivals held in the State of Louisiana in a calendar year. That’s roughly eight festivals every weekend.

PHOTO CAPTION: Essense After Dark - After the evening concerts, festival-goers can attend after hours comedy shows, live podcasts, and underground performances (Source: essence.com)

Festivals have become a bigger and bigger draw to tourists coming into Louisiana. Festival attendance by “out of towners” was 2.8 million people in 2017, up 2% from 2012.

Paul Arrigo is the CEO of Visit Baton Rouge. He believes festivals are usually a trip enhancer for people coming to Baton Rouge for other reasons.

“When you’re in Louisiana, food, culture, and history, those kind of stand out, but [a festival] certainly is a reason why people come to Baton Rouge, why people come to Louisiana, and what people enjoy about their stay in our community," said Arrigo.

Where else in the world can you go catch a frog at the Frog Festival and then that night, eat frog legs? Each [festival] has a special flavor, but what they all have is incredible people that have a love and passion for the culture, their community, and their food, and that’s what makes [festivals] special." -Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser.
Children enjoy a frog jumping competition at the Rayne Frog Festival (Source: Rayne Frog Festival Facebook page)

Festivals are a good moneymaker for many metro areas and smaller communities as well, and they come in many different sizes. Some are small, producing estimated economic impacts of around $150,000, while some are large, like the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the Essence Festival, which each produce roughly $300 million in economic impact to the greater New Orleans area.

A 2009 study found that festival spending by “out of towners” (people that live 45 miles or more away from an event site) accounted for an estimated $847 million in economic impact for the State of Louisiana. The Baton Rouge area accounted for $64 million. Add in people that live closer than 45 miles and it’s not a stretch to say festivals account for $1 billion in economic impact for Louisiana.

PHOTO CAPTION: Fête des Fromages features food from places like The Cheese Chalet, La Petite Grocery, and Rimon (Source: fetedesfromages.com)

A new study hasn’t been done in the 10 years since 2009 though, but individual festivals will sometimes conduct their own internal economic impact studies. Listed below are some festivals' economic impact study results and the years the studies were conducted.

Live performers entertain crowds at the Festival International de Louisiane in Lafayette (Source: Festival International de Louisiane Facebook page)

The fastest growing festivals in the state are both located in New Orleans. The Fried Chicken Festival and the French Quarter Festival have seen significant growth in the last few years.

Not counting state or parish fairs, the oldest festival is the International Tarpon Rodeo in Grand Isle. This year marked the 91st edition. The next oldest is the Louisiana Shrimp & Petroleum Festival in Morgan City which celebrated its 84th festival in 2019. The Rice Festival in Crowley is close behind, celebrating its 83rd festival in 2019. Baton Rouge’s oldest festival is Fest for All, now known as Ebb & Flow Festival. It celebrated 48 years in 2019.

Participants practice on different musical instruments at Baton Rouge's Ebb & Flow Festival (Source: www.ebbandflowbr.org)

There are five festivals across the state happening the weekend of Nov. 16:

Of course, for all kinds of details on local events and festivals, be sure to check out The Louisiana Weekend.