What began as a community group on Facebook for locals to share stories and photos of their Acadian ancestors has grown into an annual heritage celebration festival. This year’s event will be sponsored by the West Baton Rouge Museum.
The Second Annual West Baton Rouge Acadian Heritage Celebration at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church set for Sunday, July 28, is the brainchild of the “Our Ancestors in Photos” group started by West Side native Debbie Doiron Martin.
The group has more than 300 members who actively share stories, historical notes, genealogies and pictures of West Baton Rouge and past and present residents. The West Side is the smallest geographical parish in the state, and a look at local genealogy reveals it is even smaller.
“Nine generations of my family have lived in West Baton Rouge Parish since the arrival of those first Acadian settlers,” Hebert said. “And many family histories in West Baton Rouge have that common bond.”
Event co-chair Lucy Landry lives in the home built by her Acadian ancestors around 1835. The book she wrote about the history of her home is one of the door prizes to be given away at the festival.
More than 260 years after their homes were burned and land confiscated, the Acadian people are still being remembered and honored by generations of their descendants.
“We’re proud of our Acadian heritage here in West Baton Rouge Parish,” event chairman Billy Hebert said. “This celebration of our unique heritage, culture, and traditions is our way of connecting descendants of Acadian families who settled this area, as well as promoting West Baton Rouge as one of the 22 Louisiana parishes designated as Acadiana.”
The festival falls on July 28, a significant day in Acadian history. On Dec. 9, 2003, Queen Elizabeth II of England acknowledged the wrongs committed in the name of the English Crown during the 1755 Acadian deportation. She issued a Royal Proclamation declaring July 28 “a day of commemoration of the Great Upheaval.”
This year’s celebration will highlight the LeJeune family, lovingly referred to as the “Adam and Eve of West Baton Rouge.” Two LeJeune brothers arrived in Louisiana with their families on the first shipload of refugees.
Attendees are encouraged to bring photos to be scanned to become permanent parts of the exhibit.