“Bonjour, bonjour, bonjour!” If you’ve ever been in earshot of a performance at Festival International de Louisiane, you’ve heard the traditional on-stage introduction, en français. For Moussa Sadou, a Lafayette transplant, originally from Niger, West Africa, this welcome was a gateway into a 20-year volunteer stint for Festival International.
Sadou, a French immersion teacher by day, still remembers the invitation to volunteer at his first Festival in 2002. “They said the festival is looking for people who speak French to introduce musicians on the stage,” says Sadou. “I said, ‘I love music. I love culture. OK, I would be glad to do that.’”
From then on, he was hooked. Sadou has volunteered on the Festival’s transportation and hospitality teams and spent six years as a member of the board, where he served as vice president of programming. Now, he’s returned to the board after taking a required three-year break. “To be honest, when I was out of the board, I felt like I lost a part of my family,” says Sadou. “That’s a big joy to see all your effort pay off.”
Ready to take your love of Festival to the next level? Sadou shares his advice for how to support Festival International and give back to an event that gives so much to Lafayette.
- Sign up for a shift. Sadou says the biggest need for volunteers is during the five days of the Festival. Go to festivalinternational.org/volunteer to register for a time slot or two. Shifts vary by length, but some are as short as two hours. You can filter opportunities by job, location and day. As a volunteer, you get a free T-shirt and receive access to an end-of-festival appreciation party.”
- Buy some merch. Pins, posters, T-shirts, flags and more are available at the Festival or on the online shop. Profits from these sales go back to support the event and help to keep it free for everyone. Don’t forget to fly your flag throughout the month of April and spread Festival love around your neighborhood.
- Become an “Ami” or sponsor. As a nonprofit, the Festival relies on 100% tax-deductible donations to keep its operations running. It’s easy to make a one-time or recurring monetary gift to the festival any time via the Sponsor tab at the top of its site. Depending on your level of giving, you gain access to special perks and discounts. Interested corporate-level sponsors can support the festival and get brand exposure by signing up on the Festival site.
- Volunteer all year. According to Sadou, the Festival board of about 30 people meets throughout the year to help coordinate the annual event. Board members are elected from a pool of dedicated volunteers. Even if you aren’t ready for a board-level commitment, you can contact the Festival International office (315 Lee Ave., (337) 232-8086, [email protected]) about year-round volunteer opportunities. Sadou says the team frequently supports other local festivals and events, such as Festivals Acadiens et Créoles.
Make it last forever. Festival International was famously started during the oil bust of the mid-1980s and has grown into one of the biggest International arts and music festivals in the United States. As Sadou says, it takes a village of support from volunteers and sponsors to keep the whole thing running for free. Instill an appreciation for the event in the next generation by bringing your little ones to the Scène des Jeunes, a mini festival within Festival International.
“We want this to keep going,” Sadou says. “In French we say, ‘Il faut pérenniser le Festival International’ — make it last forever.” Bon Festival!