Spanning 23 acres, and dotted by original and faithfully recreated architecture, Vermilionville is a living, breathing portrait of Lafayette from 1765 to 1890.
All year long, the historic village and museum celebrates the life, leisure and lessons of the region’s Acadian, Creole and Native American populations. Three times yearly, Vermilionville dedicates a full day to spotlighting each respective culture, transforming the village into a sprawling, hands-on history lesson.
This year, Acadian Culture Day falls on Aug. 3 and will focus on females in folklore and activities planned for the day include : tarte, râpure (rappie pie), and jambalaya cooking demonstrations; artisan demonstrations such as tatting, quilting, Acadian song and dance, herbal remedies, bourré, rosary making, open hearth cooking and old-time washing and clothesline hanging; canoe paddling in Le Petit Bayou; games and crafts for children including rag dolls, Acadian flag kits, Tintamarre noise makers and more; sharing circles on Veneration of Mary and Congrès Mondial Experiences; film screenings of I Always Do My Collars First and T’Galop by Conni Castille; performances by Renaissance Cadienne and musical performances by Bonsoir Catin and T’Monde as well as dance lessons before each band.
“If you leave learning something new about your heritage and one of our region’s cultures, then I’m happy,” says Jolie Johnson, Museum Operations Coordinator of Vermilionville. “Even if you come just to experience the day, we are happy if you leave with a smile.”
Each year for Acadian Culture Day Vermilionville presents a representative of the community with the Acadian Cultural Preservation Award in recognition of outstanding lifetime contributions to the preservation of the culture and the community. This year’s recipient is Mrs. Brenda Mounier for her impact on multiple levels of the Acadian community.
Expect to learn a lot. Here’s a sampling of activities you can expect on Acadian Culture Day:
Cooking (& Eating) Demonstrations
Traditionally done in a black pot suspended over coals or an open fire, open-hearth cooking is as basic as it gets. Artisans will demonstrate that with a little love (and practice, and planning) results can be quite delectable. Learn the tricks of the trade for this old-world method, and dig into jambalaya, sweet dough tarts and more.
Be loud. Be proud. Bear witness to an authentic tintamarre. Participants draped in red take to the streets with bold banners and improvised noisemakers (think pots and pans) as a symbolic affirmation of presence and self-confidence. It’s a proud, fairly new tradition tracing back to the 200th anniversary of the Acadian expulsion in 1955. All the ruckus loosely translates to, “We’re here, and we’re not going anywhere.”
Flag & Rag Doll Making
Acadians were practical craftsmen who saw value in every scrap. And for their kids it meant more toys. Build your own high-flying red, white and blue (and gold) flag, or a rag doll modeled after the fleur-de-lis-spangled banner. It’s a primitive doll of fabric, rubber bands and braided arms. “It’s also called a church doll,” Jolie Johnson says. “Because whenever you drop it, it doesn’t make a sound.”
Broussard House Tour
Tour the home of Joseph “Beausoleil” Broussard, the famed militia captain who led the first group of Acadians settlers to Southern Louisiana in 1765. The spacious plantation home, one of many properties that made up the original Broussard ranch, houses artifacts and handmade items from Broussard’s day, along with a recreated exterior kitchen and barn. Artisans will provide historical context on this important figure from Louisiana history.
Acadian Cultural Preservation Award Honoree Brenda Mounier
Teacher, poet, actress and dialect coach, this Cajun “community scholar” never misses an opportunity to share her language and culture. Brenda was born and raised in a French-speaking family of seven in the community of Ville Platte. Growing up bilingual, she was embarrassed that her parents couldn’t speak English. “A thousand times I was honte that my parents couldn’t speak English and a thousand times I thanked them after…after I realized what a gift I had been given,” said Brenda. Her French language opened doors for her that she could not have imagined.
Thanks to CODOFIL (Council for the Development of French in Louisiana), she was able to pursue studies in Quebec, France, Guadeloupe and North Africa. In 1982, while living in Texas, she was asked to serve as an interpreter for the Men’s Olympic Volleyball team from Bulgaria (their coaches spoke French), who were on a U.S. tour with the American team.
Inspired to write poetry, she was the first recipient of the French Award sponsored by CODOFIL in the Deep South Writers’ Conference in 1986 and again in 1987. In 2010, she was invited to share her poetry at Festivals Acadiens in Caraquet, New Brunswick. She has served as dialect coach on several commercials, having written one in 1986 for Bonus Blend Coffee which was the first sub-titled commercial in Louisiana. She was a member of the Théâtre Cadien and Creole, Inc. and served on both the Festival International Board and the CODOFIL board. She has also presented numerous workshops on Cajun culture for the Louisiana State Department of Education, as well as in Georgia and West Virginia.
In 1986, Brenda received a Rockefeller grant to study the Acadian triangle –France, Nova Scotia and Louisiana. Upon her return from these 3 areas, she produced what she considers to be her proudest achievement: two 50-minute videos (with accompanying teacher’s manual) for the French and Social Studies programs in Louisiana. Entitled “Bonjour, l’Histoire : Cajun history for kids, by kids,” these videos were narrated entirely by her 4th grade students from Woodvale Elementary who also did the artwork.
Having taught students ranging in age from 8 to 80, Brenda is currently retired from 34 years in the public school, but remains very active in the “Cajun Cause,” in many capacities and in teaching French-speaking adults to read and write the Cajun language of their childhood.
Acadian Culture Day begins at 10:00 a.m. on Aug. 3. Located at 300 Fisher Road in Lafayette. Vermilionville is open year-round 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday.