Skip to main content

Face Magazine of Acadiana

Welcome to Lafayette, Louisiana!!!

Apr 24, 2019 10:00AM ● By Laurie James

Welcome to Lafayette, Louisiana!!!

History and life lessons from the Heart of Cajun Country

Do you need some good vibrations? How about music that’ll put an infectious smile on your face and yearning for more because of its sound and unusual rhythm? If so, welcome to Lafayette! (We prefer you to pronounce us: laffy yet! Although we’re French in culture, we enjoy laughing so much that it has become our preferred pronunciation…)  

Lafayette (originally Vermilionville) was recently named Happiest City in America by the Wall Street Journal’s Marketwatch.com. Whether you’ve lived here all your life or are visiting for the first time, here are some interesting eye-openers as you explore this one-of-a-kind, friendly, generous, and jovial community!

QUICK HISTORY LESSON: Thomas Jefferson is credited with the greatest deal in U.S. history – the Louisiana Purchase, which he snagged for a mere $15 million from France in 1803. It included approximately 827,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi River. Honoring the original French heritage, Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. governed by the Napoleonic Code (of Law). The other states are governed by Common Law.

HOW ACADIANA GOT ITS NAME: Our distinct French-Canadian culture was brought down by the Acadians who were expelled from parts of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and eastern Quebec in the mid-1700’s during the British and French hostilities. That explains Acadian, but how did Acadiana come to fruition? KATC TV 3 was founded by the Acadian 

Television Corporation. In 1963, KATC received correspondence addressed to the Acadiana Television Corp. The lagniappe (extra) “a” at the caboose stuck!! Yes, the term Acadiana was created via typo!

TOE-TAPPING MUSIC INFLUENCE: Music, food, & celebrations are at the forefront of any brochure gushing about Lafayette, and with good reason! We offer a diverse blend of Zydeco, Cajun, Creole, Rock and Roll, R&B-influenced grooves of swamp pop, homegrown rock, country, hip-hop derived from French Creoles, Acadians, Native Americans, European, African and Caribbean-influenced rhythms and song forms. A special shout out goes to our German-Jewish immigrants for importing diatonic accordions from Europe.

EDUCATIONAL CULTURE: The University of Louisiana at Lafayette (ULL) is the proud home of our Ragin’ Cajuns, a nickname reflective of the community. The ULL campus is famous for live alligators residing in Cypress Lake, a unique university landmark located behind the student union. Graduating seniors who order rings become part of a distinctive campus tradition. On the night before graduation ceremonies, members of the UL Lafayette’s Army ROTC escort these rings to Cypress Lake. There, the rings are loaded onto a custom-built, metal pirogue (boat) to spend the night on the water, guarded by students! ULL has been home to several award-winning faculty members, including John Kennedy Toole, Pulitzer Prize winning author of A Confederacy of Dunces; Ernest J. Gaines, National Book Critics Circle Award-winner for A Lesson Before Dying; and Burton Raffel, noted for his translation of Beowulf and Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote. 

UNDENIABLE GAME-CHANGERS: Lafayette has made an indelible mark throughout history, redefining entire industries. Here are several who have left important legacies: Famous architect A. Hays Town grew up in Lafayette and was heavily influenced by the Spanish, French and Creole history of Louisiana. His top-architectural designs are celebrated throughout the country. Henri Bendel founded the famous upscale women’s fashions company bearing his name in New York City, which remained in business for more than 100 years. Marc Breaux made memorable movie musical history by choreographing “Mary Poppins”, “The Sound of Music” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” on the big screen. Political activist, Beth Rickey diligently and successfully exposed (Ku Klux Klan leader) David Duke’s neo-Nazi connections. The first true celebrity makeup artist was Kevyn Aucoin who transcended the cosmetics industry by perfecting and sharing his makeup artistry. He worked with hundreds of celebrities (including Whitney Houston, Cher, Janet Jackson, Tina Turner, and Lisa Marie Presley) whom he transformed through the art of makeup. Floyd Sonnier is an internationally acclaimed pen-and-ink Cajun artist who specialized in drawings depicting Cajun culture, lifestyle, and family.

FAMOUS HOMEGROWN TALENT: From Grammy-Winning musicians to iconic television characters to well-respected athletes, Lafayette is home to a veritable plethora of talented people, including: Lauren Daigle – recent Grammy Award Winner; Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (Louisiana’s first female Governor, 2004–2008); Mikie Mahtook (MLB Detroit Tigers Outfielder); R&B Singer Cupid (“Cupid Shuffle”); Keith Thibodeaux (‘Little Ricky’ from “I Love Lucy”); World Title Gymnast, Leigh Hennessy (holds record for winning most U.S. national women’s trampoline championships); Ron Guidry (aka Louisiana Lightning, a left-handed pitcher with New York Yankees & Cy Young Award Winner); Singer/Guitarist MacKenzie Bourg (garnered critical acclaim through two reality talent shows - The Voice AND American Idol); Tennis Professional, Chanda Rubin (earned #6 in world ranking).

PRAYER LIFE: We work hard, we play hard, and we pray hard!! Nearly 50% of residents in Lafayette are Catholic. Going back in history, Louisiana was officially Roman Catholic under both France and Spain’s rule. The boundaries dividing the territories generally coinciding with church parishes. In 1807, the territorial legislature officially adopted the ecclesiastical term. That’s why we use the term “parish” to coincide with the largely Catholic population, while other states use the term “county”.


About the author: Laurie (Jankower) James, MCD  grew up in Lafayette. As a small-business owner (33+ years – credentialed résumé writer, career coach, motivational speaker), she is passionate about God, Kenny (her husband), maintaining University of Louisiana at Lafayette® cULture, building & sustaining meaningful relationships, music, traveling, genealogy, and keeping Acadiana thriving. Learn more at www.lauriejjames.com.

Footnote: This brief article merely scratches the surface of the charm and history that Lafayette offers. Enjoy our Festival International while spending some quality time here, and you’ll never want to leave!

View the print magazine version below...