Big Towns: A new event for mid-sized communities

Brass band plays outside a big mural
Photo by LeeAnn Stephen

There’s an apocryphal story floating around that in the not-so-distant past, Lafayette’s powers that be gathered for a discussion about the future and asked this question: Should Lafayette be a big Abbeville or a small Houston? 

Whichever they chose, it appears to have come true. 

Size-wise, Lafayette is a tweener. At around 120,000 people, we nevertheless sprawl. Life here is quaint enough to be comfortable but big enough to be complicated. 

That’s the essence of life in a big town. 

All last year, as part of our election coverage, we documented some generational challenges for Lafayette: economic transition, young people in exodus and a housing crunch. These things compound. They’d be growing pains were Lafayette growing, which we aren’t in the grand scheme of things. 

These aren’t problems unique to Lafayette, of course. But cities like Lafayette are often left out of the conversation about solving them. Put another way, it’s tough to find ideas that fit. 

That’s why The Current, United Way of Acadiana and several other community organizations have banded together to make space for that conversation. 

We call it Big Towns, a new event convening mid-sized communities. Scheduled for April 23-24 at the Acadiana Center for the Arts, the discussion will range across four tracks: growth, health, culture and media. We’ve put together a compelling agenda and roster of speakers. Here’s a sample: 

  • David Begnaud, CBS Mornings  
  • Deonna Anderson, Next City 
  • Allison Forbes, Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness 
  • Chuck Marohn, StrongTowns 
  • Josh Benton, Nieman Lab 
  • Richard Young, CivicLex 
  • Monte Anderson, Neighborhood Evolution 
  • Carlton Ulmer, Build a Brain  

The list is growing by the day. We’ll have a full agenda released in early March. Keep a tab open on to follow along. 

For The Current, this is a natural extension of our solutions journalism work, and our role as a convener in Lafayette’s civic and cultural life. 

Stay tuned for more.