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Crawfish Culture

After polka's heyday came and went, most folks thought the accordion was history. It had its 15 minutes, a few people with strange taste in dance got down to it, and the instrument forever disappeared from fashion. But the squeezebox lives on. An entire region of the United States owes its musical topography to the compressible instrument; anyone who doesn't believe this has never been to Louisiana.

The Ninth Annual Fort Lauderdale Cajun-Zydeco Crawfish Festival begins Friday and celebrates all that is good and proper about Creole comestibles and the accordion antics of two musical forms, zydeco and Cajun. Both are played in the bayous around New Orleans, and both rely on the accordion as a primary instrument. But while zydeco employs a washboard, Cajun tunes are fiddlecentric. At the festival audiences might see a band of white boys such as the Hackberry Ramblers, resplendent in their ten-gallon hats and bolo ties as they have been for almost 70 years, following groups such as Lil' Brian and the Zydeco Travelers or Lil' Malcolm Walker and the House Rockers, both of whose frontmen seem more ready to bust rhymes than squeeze box.

Along with all the down-on-the-Delta music, the festival's big draw is the food. This year 35,000 pounds of live crawfish will be tossed into vats filled with vegetables and spices, where the little suckers' claws will clack desperately yet harmlessly as they are boiled alive -- that, my friends, is what they call "good eatin'" down in the bayou. Besides the Great Crawdad Massacre, other foodstuffs available at the festival include gator bites, cochon de lait (pig roast), po'boy sandwiches, étouffée, jambalaya, gumbo, and red beans and rice. Of course it wouldn't be Creole cooking if it weren't spicy enough to cause thermonuclear meltdown of the taste buds, so ice-cold drinks will be offered, including frozen Doc Otis Hard Lemonade and the requisite Hurricanes, made with Bacardi Select Rum.

A variety of activities is scheduled throughout the weekend, including several that are new to the festival this year. A happy couple gets hitched in an authentic Cajun wedding on the main stage at 6 p.m. Saturday. The ceremony is followed by a lengthy reception that, like almost everything else at the festival, involves lots of food, entirely too much drinking, and enough dancing to give you cramps. Other new events include the Roadhouse Grill Backstage Crazee Café, the Sunday Brunch and Cajun Jam (continental breakfast and more dancing, 9 to 11 a.m.), the late-night Zy-De-Co Jam (still more dancing, Saturday 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.), and the Watermelon Sacrifice, in which participants dance with the gargantuan fruit before tossing it into the air; this, my friends, is what they call good, clean fun.

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Dan Sweeney
Contact: Dan Sweeney

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