It’s 8:30 on a Saturday morning at Buck & Johnny’s in Breaux Bridge, just outside of Lafayette, Louisiana, and the weekly “World Famous Zydeco Breakfast” is about to get under way. Excitement fills the air because today’s entertainer—Grammy winner Chubby Carrier, a third-generation Zydeco musician and a local favorite—will soon take the stage. In fact, the effervescent Chubby and his accompanying Bayou Swamp Band can barely contain their own energy. After what can only be described as a musical explosion when they start to play, dozens of couples, old and young, Black and white, pour onto the dance floor, dancing the two-step with gusto.
Forget breakfast. It’s time to dance.
They do so sporting cowboy hats, glittery fedoras, and cardboard tiaras on their heads. The men are adorned in tie-dye T-shirts or Western wear, the women in paisley or leopard-print blouses, some of them with knee-length skirts that billow outward when they twirl. There’s even a woman in multihued green, gold, and purple bib overalls—Mardi Gras colors—and a man in an electric wheelchair spinning in circles. The dancers cut a rug for upwards of 2 hours, with Chubby and his band delivering favorites like the “Zydeco Shuffle” and “Don’t Mess with My Toot Toot.” The music is so infectious, even people seated at the tables, myself included, are tapping their feet and bouncing to the beat.
Music, both Zydeco and Cajun, is one of the principal draws to this area of south Louisiana known as Acadiana. You can find music nearly every night of the week in Lafayette and surrounding towns. Visit enough venues and you’ll start to see the same couples dancing in different locations, sometimes on the same day, making you wonder, Don’t Cajun folks’ feet ever get tired?
As you put your own feet to the ambitious test, start them in Lafayette. Use the metropolis as a home base, savoring the city’s delights while also launching out on day trips to enjoy the charming small towns surrounding it. In short order, you’ll discover why Lafayette has been called the “Happiest City in America.” Residents exhibit a joie de vivre, French for “buoyant enjoyment of life,” and you’ll likely come away feeling the same after sampling the music, food, history, and memorable landscapes.