Lafayette’s Celtic Bayou Festival pipes in the wider Celtic world

Man in traditional Scots clothes plays the bagpipe
Bagpipers perform in the street during the Celtic Bayou Festival on Saturday, March 12, 2022, at the Hideaway on Lee in downtown Lafayette. Photo by Brad Bowie (Courtesy the Acadiana Advocate)

If you want it done right, do it yourself.

It’s an old adage that readily applies to Tony and Shelia Daveron’s Celtic Bayou Festival.

“When we first moved here, Sheila had her dance school (The Ryan School of Irish Dance), I had my band, Celjun, and we got asked to do Bennigan’s, and, Paddy in the Park—once,” says Tony Daveron about St. Patrick’s Day events in Lafayette. The couple were also invited to similar events in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

The Daverons initially obliged. Reservations, however, came soon after.

“So we would join the events and we would take part and do our thing,” says Daveron. “But we were always left with a, like, ‘Oh my God. This is how they see the Irish. This is how they see our Celtic culture.’”

And the Daverons would know. 

View the full Celtic Bayou Festival lineup and schedule here.

Tony is from Ireland. He’s also a musician and toured with Riverdance the Show. It was where he met Shelia, an Irish-American who danced with the troupe, and they later married. 

“I’m very aware of the fun nature of living in this part of the world,” he says. “We love festivals and we love celebrating any excuse to celebrate anything.”

With that in mind and a mission at hand, the Celtic Bayou Festival came to be in 2016.

“We see how much support the Cajun and Creole cultures get down here and how serious it’s taken,” says Daveron. 

“So, we were like, ‘Well, let’s take that kind of outlook and energy and do something that we can be proud of that has to do with our heritage.’”

And so it is as Celtic Bayou Festival returns Friday and Saturday, March 15-16, 2024, in Downtown Lafayette. 

The festival begins (with adults in mind) with a pub crawl, Friday, 5 p.m., at the Hideaway on Lee, 407 Lee Ave. The fête continues Saturday, 11:30 a.m., at Warehouse 535, 535 Garfield St., for a family-friendly day of Celtic music, a bake-/cook-off, educational and children activities, and food and beverages. 

“If it was up to me, I’d have an Irish music festival and invite my favorite bands from the region and the rest of the state and do it,” Daveron says. “We do have a little bit of that, but we decided to make it a Celtic festival and incorporate all of the Celtic diaspora.”

That would include Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Isle of Man, Brittany and Galicia, Spain.

And this year, in a coup of sorts, the festival teamed up with Breizh Amerika, which, Daveron said, presents the largest Celtic festival in the world in France.

“They’re based on promoting Breton culture in America,” says Daveron, adding it wasn’t a reach for the two organizations to sign a partnership agreement.

“They got so excited about what we were doing here and realized we had Breton music and culture represented at our festival,” he says, adding that Breizh Amerika is bringing music, food, dance, and talks on history and language to Lafayette.

“The reason it all ties in with this area is a lot of French that would’ve come from France that settled down here, a lot of them came from the Breton region,” says Daveron. “It all ties in beautifully together.”

Daveron views the Breizh Amerika partnership as “another part of the Celtic diaspora that we’re really involved with. Next up, I want to make a connection with the Celts in Spain.”

Looking ahead, Daveron envisions Celtic Bayou growing to include every region of the Celtic world. 

“That would be my dream,” he says. 

Still, the Celtic Bayou Festival is a dream come true as it is — far and away different from the green beer and other trappings of Americanized Irish celebrations. 

“Essentially, we want them to have a really good, authentic, you know, Celtic good time,” he says. “But it doesn’t have to be green beer and four-leaf shamrocks.Why can’t it be good Guinness and good food?”