Bayou State parties every week; tourists invited

Louisianans are nothing if not a festive folk. The official motto on the state seal is ''Union, Justice, Confidence,'' but the one more popularly subscribed to is ''Laissez les bons temps rouler''m (''Let the good times roll'').

There is some sort of fair or festival somewhere in the state virtually every week of the year. ''Give Louisianans an excuse to throw a party and they'll throw one,'' says Dawson Corley of the Louisiana Office of Tourism.

All this partying has the potential for economic benefit. State tourism officials must wrestle with the fact that although New Orleans is world renowned as a destination, Louisiana as a whole is not. Festivals - notably in the Cajun country of southwest Louisiana - are being promoted as a way to get tourists out of the French Quarter for a couple of days, at least.

Festivals reflect the characters of different parts of the state. Cajun festivals are typically three-day weekends of eating, drinking, music, and dancing in the streets. Here in Clinton, site of the recent Feliciana Festival, things are a bit more restrained. This is English Louisiana, under British rule when the French and Spanish controlled the rest of Louisiana. The main festival events were an arts and crafts show, with booths set up under the spreading oaks and towering pines on the East Feliciana Parish courthouse lawn, and a tour of plantation homes.

Among edibles festivalized across the state are crawfish, oysters, catfish, and shrimp. (Morgan City, an offshore oil center, hosts the Lousiana Shrimp and Petroleum Festival. The combination seems quite logical here.) There are festivals commemorating gumbo, jambalaya, peaches, rice, strawberries, tamales, and tomatoes. Metairie, outside New Orleans, claims the Original Red Beans and Rice Festival. There are even at least two festivals dedicated to sauce piquantem .

If this doesn't suffice, there's even a New Orleans Food Festival. (What? You thought New Orleans was one continuous food festival year-round?) Then there are ethnic festivals, including German, Italian, Irish, Spanish.

And let's not forget the Toledo Bend Trash Festival, a civic cleanup of the bottom of the Toledo Bend Reservoir, the large lake that forms part of the Texas-Louisiana border. Divers compete to see who can come up with the most interesting items from the lake bottom, to the accompaniment of general merrymaking onshore.

Notice we haven't yet said a word about Mardi Gras.

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