Louisiana Folklife Month 2024


The Louisiana Folklife Month recognizes the rich diversity of Louisiana's living traditions of tradition bearers in order to bring attention to the individuals who sustain them. The initiative showcases an array of tradition bearers in a series of public programs taking place at venues across the state. Folklife Ambassadors from the Louisiana Folklife Commission (LFC) and Louisiana Folklore Society (LFS) have selected the following tradition bearers to be recognized at public presentations.


Gina Forsyth, Fiddler, Singer/Songwriter, Guitarist, Breaux Bridge, LA; Darryl Reeves, Master Blacksmith, New Orleans, LA; Jerry Devillier, Cajun Harmonica, Eunice, LA; George "Scrap" Hymel Family, St James Parish Levee Bonfire Tradition, Donaldsonville, LA; Waylon Thibodeaux, Cajun Fiddler, Houma, LA; and Ron Yule, Fiddle Player and Cultural Historian, DeRidder, LA.

Presentations will be moderated by Folklife Ambassadors from the Louisiana Folklife Commission (LFC) and Louisiana Folklore Society (LFS).

Folklife Month is supported in part by funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.

Learn about all tradition bearers recognized since 2015 here.


Fiddler, Singer/Songwriter, Guitarist, Breaux Bridge, LA

Saturday, October 10, TIME
Rockin' The Rails

Address: 419 N. New Hampshire Street, Covington, LA 70433

Ambassador: Jim Hogg

Tradition Bearer: Gina Forsyth is a fiddler, singer/songwriter, and guitarist who lives in Breaux Bridge, LA. Gina is the longtime fiddler with Bruce Daigrepont's Cajun band, and appears on three of Bruce's recordings, including his latest, Bienvenu Dans Sud de la Louisiane. Her 2015 CD, Mid-City Aces, is part of the Cajun trio with Cameron Dupuy on accordion and his father, Michael Dupuy on guitar. She has also toured with the Cajun rock band Mamou, and played with a number of other Cajun artists, including Sheryl Cormier, Paul Daigle, and Waylon Thibodeaux. Known and loved for her fiddling, she has performed and taught Cajun fiddle at Fiddle Tunes, in Port Townsend, WA, Augusta Heritage Center, in West Virginia, and at Dewey Balfa Creole and Cajun Heritage Week, in Louisiana.

Gina Forsyth. Photo: Terri Fensel.

Born in Florida and raised on country music, hymns, and fiddle music in Alabama, Gina moved to Louisiana in the mid-1980s, and has been playing Cajun and country fiddle music ever since. She is an accomplished singer-songwriter who has recorded two solo albums of original music, You Are Here, and Promised Land, along with an album of traditional fiddle tunes, Copper Rooster and Other Tunes and Tales.

Gina regularly plays nationally and locally. In 2022 and 2023, she performed at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, in Port Townsend, WA, and the Fox Valley Folk Festival, in Geneva, IL. Among her accomplishments, Gina was an Emerging Artist at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival (NY/CT) in 2015, and was selected as one of three Most Wanted Artists to return the following year. In 2023, she returned to the Falcon Ridge Festival as a member of house band. As passing on the style and tradition of Cajun fiddling is an important part of her life's work, also in 2023, she returned to teach at Balfa Week, and at the Augusta Heritage Center's Cajun Week. She currently teaches Cajun fiddle in the Traditional Music program at The University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

The Event: Jim Hogg will recognize Gina Forsyth as a Louisiana Tradition Bearer in a ceremony at Rockin' The Rails in Covington.


Master Blacksmith, New Orleans, LA

Wednesday, October 9, 2024 at 2 pm
Dillard University, Will Alexander Library

Address: 2601 Gentilly Blvd., New Orleans, LA 70126

Ambassador: Mona Lisa Saloy, Conrad Hilton Endowed Chair, Professor of English, Dillard University, Poet Laureate

Partnering Organization: Dillard University

Tradition Bearer: New Orleans native, who's shop remains in the 7th Ward, Darryl Reeves is a Master Blacksmith is a third-generation metal worker and owner of Andrew's Welding & Blacksmith Shop in New Orleans' Seventh Ward,Possessing centuries-old knowledge and creative ability, with over 50 years of service to his craft here and around the world, Reeves has restored the ornate gates of the Presbytere, the massive gate at the Chalmette National Cemetery, the fabrication of the fence of the Cabildo. In 2012, he cofounded the New Orleans Master Crafts Guild, with Jonn Hankins who manages the program and Jeffrey Poree (Master Plasterer); this program includes apprenticeship training, ground-level networks, and reviving building trades for a new generation.

Darryl Reeves. Photo: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

. Reeves addresses the need for skilled laborers to maintain New Orleans' historic architecture adorned by iron fences and gates. Reeves is the most celebrated architectural blacksmith in the Gulf South, according to The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Most recently, Darryl Reeves forged a metal masterpiece for Disney's Tiana's Bayou Adventure. Darryl Reeves Shop is at 1873 Agriculture Street in New Orleans 7th Ward.

The Event: Mona Lisa Saloy will recognize Darryl Reeves as a Louisiana Tradition Bearer in a ceremony at Dillard University.


Cajun Harmonica, Eunice, LA

Saturday, October 12, 2024 Time TBD
Festivals Acadiens et Créoles; Atelier Stage

Address: 500 Girard Park Drive, Lafayette, LA 70503

Ambassadors: John Sharp, Assistant Director for Research at Center for Louisiana Studies, University of Louisiana-Lafayette; Herman Fuselier, Executive Director, St Landry Parish Tourist Commission

Partnering Organization: University of Louisiana at Lafayette Center for Louisiana Studies

Tradition Bearer: Jerry Devillier, born 1938 in L'Anse Meg, Evangeline Parish, inherited a rich Cajun heritage. Speaking only French until schooling introduced him to English, Jerry's musical prowess became apparent when at 7 or 8 years old, he was asked to play accordion on the bandwagon for the Mamou Courir de Mardi Gras run. In high school, he won second place in the State of Louisiana high school music talent competition by playing the harmonica. After graduating from USL and being drafted into the Army, Jerry taught high school mathematics before transitioning to professional photography, where he was renowned for his regional sports photography as well as his captures of Cajun life and culture.

Jerry Devillier. Photo: Courtesy of Jerry Devillier.

Jerry played harmonica and triangle in the Mamou Cajun Band, including at their performance at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, where they brought their version of Cajun music to a wide audience, earning standing ovations and encores. A frequent on stage with Swamp Pop legends the Boogie Kings, as well as in demand as with recording sessions, Jerry is a World Class harmonica player who is a master of many styles. Beyond his musical achievements, Jerry's devotion to teaching and preserving Cajun culture stands out. He shared his knowledge through video, audio, and production techniques for Cajun music radio and TV shows, such as Rendez-vous des Cajuns at the Liberty Theater, which he recorded every Saturday for over 25 years.

The Event: John Pudd Sharp and Herman Fuselier will recognize Jerry Devillier as a Louisiana Tradition Bearer in a ceremony at the 2023 Festivals Acadiens et Créoles Atelier Stage in Lafayette.


St James Parish Levee Bonfire Tradition, Donaldsonville, LA

Saturday, October 5, 2024, 6-9 p.m.
Live After 5 concert, Crescent Park Bandshell

Address: 314 Mississippi Street, Donaldsonville, LA 70346

Ambassador: Brian Davis, Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation

Partnering Organization: Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation

Tradition Bearers: The Hymel Family Bonfire tradition began in 1969, when the late Richard Roussel Jr. brought together family and friends for food and camaraderie. The gathering was held at the Gramercy home of his daughter, Denise "Denny" Hymel, and her husband, George "Scrap" Hymel. The ten Roussel siblings helped their dad organize the annual family event each Christmas Eve. The tradition is carried on today by Denny and Scrap's children and their families. George "Stephen" Hymel and his family, does most of the cooking, following the role of his late grandfather, Richard, who made sure everyone had plenty to eat. The menu always includes, Alligator Sauce Piquant, Red Bean Gumbo, Chicken and Andouille Gumbo, and Jambalaya. Stephen's family includes his wife Kim Perret Hymel, son Stephen Hymel and daughter Kami Hymel. Vikki Hymel Moran and her husband Mike Moran also helps with food and beverages for the gathering. Vikki's family also includes daughter, Denise Moran Campbell, her husband Dylan Campbell, and Megan Moran.

Hymel Family. Photo: Courtsey of Hymel Family.

Kent "Rooney" Hymel is in charge of setting up the carport and tent areas, cooking the Red Bean Gumbo, and putting on the fireworks show. Rooney's wife, Shannon Brignac Hymel, helps with coordination of all aspects. Their family includes son, Austin Hymel, his wife Ashley Tucker Hymel and daughter Annalise Catherine Hymel; as well as son Hunter Hymel and his wife Kelsey Roussel Hymel; and son Zack Hymel. On Christmas Eve, Hymel Family and up to 300 friends gather at Denny Hymel's house in Gramercy, to snack on meatballs, Shrimp Remoulade, cheese and fruit trays, and pralines, while they catch up on life events and wait for the sun to set. Once dark has settled over St. James Parish, the bonfires and firework show begin. Rooney Hymel says that friendly competitions among communities is not about the best bonfire, but who has the best fireworks display. Denny says the family continues this tradition because they thoroughly enjoy the reaction of the people, especially those who are experiencing the "open house" and bonfires for the first time. Everyone feels the Christmas Eve warmth of the bonfires on the levee can hardly compete with the warmth, as well as the graciousness, coming from within Denny's home. The origin story for the centuries-old tradition vary from lighting the way for "Papa Noel" on Christmas Eve, to lighting the path for parishioners going to the Catholic church for Midnight Mass.

Denny's husband, George "Scrap" Hymel, passed away on December 30th, 2022. He was part of a fourth-generation sugarcane farm and loved tractors. The following year, the family constructed a specialty bonfire construction to resemble an antique John Deere High Crop 4020 tractor, in his memory. Rooney Hymel said that until then, the family built the traditional pyramid bonfire structure. They took their dad's model John Deere tractor to the levee and started to construct the structure out of willow and scrap lumber, with sugarcane stalks for added detail. The project took about a month, from beginning to end.

The Event: Brian Davis will recognize the Hymel Family as Louisiana Tradition Bearers in a ceremony at the Live After 5 concert, Crescent Park Bandshell in Donasldsonville.


Cajun Fiddler, Houma, LA

Saturday, October 19, 2024 at 3 PM
Rougarou Fest, Atchafalaya Narrative Stage

Address: 132 Library Drive, Houma LA 70360

Ambassadors: Jonathan Foret, Executive Director, South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center

Partnering Organizations: South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center

Tradition Bearer: Born in Louisiana's 'Bayou Country' just a few miles southwest of New Orleans, Houma native Waylon Thibodeaux has been dubbed "Louisiana's Rockin Fiddler." Today, this talented, self-taught Cajun musician has gained a notable reputation as one of Louisiana's best known recording artists. His talents have led him to play festivals, clubs and other special events throughout the United States, Canada, France, Belgium, Central and South America. His rollicking, crowd-pleasing performance on stage is exactly what one would expect from someone who, at age 16, was Louisiana's state fiddle champion. He never fails to serve up a good helping of spicy, high-energy Louisiana and Cajun/Zydeco music. His unique musical style is best described by Thibodeaux himself: "It's a mixture – it's Cajun, but not too traditional, it's Zydeco with a pinch of New Orleans' sound. A small pinch of South Louisiana "Swamp Pop", and the Blues. A taste of Country and a little Rock n' Roll, that's sure to get you on your feet and dancing."

Waylon Thibodeaux. Photo: Ben Powell.

Waylon also conducts educational and musically-themed workshops. Dedicated to the preservation of Cajun history and customs, he utilizes his gift for storytelling as he traces the Acadian journey as they leave their native France for Nova Scotia and then are exiled to Louisiana. Audience members often find themselves with a washboard, triangle, or other Cajun instrument in hand as the stories and music of the Cajun people unfold.

His achievements include the Louisiana State Fiddle Champion and three CDs: Here We Go Again (2020), Back In My Old Stompin' Grounds (2014), and Who's Yo' Cher Be' Be' (2008). In 1999, he co-wrote "Si Longtemps Separe", the winning song for the International Acadian Reunion, Congre Mondial Acadien and voted #1 Song of the for 1999 in New Bruswick and Nova Scotia, Canada.

The Event: Jonathan Foret will recognize Waylon Thibodeaux as a Tradition Bearer in a ceremony during the Rougarou Fest.


HONORING RON YULE, Fiddle Player and Cultural Historian, DeRidder, LA

Saturday, October 19, 2024 at 11 am,
Beauregard Museum

Address: 120 S. Washington Street, DeRidder, LA 70634

Ambassador: Dr. Shane Rasmussen, Professor of English and Director of the Louisiana Folklife Center, Northwestern State University; Dr. Susan Roach, Folklorist & Professor of English, Emerita, Louisiana Tech University.

Partnering Organizations: The Beauregard Museum, Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum, Louisiana Folklife Center, and Northwestern State University

Tradition Bearer: Ron Yule began playing the fiddle in 1968 while a student. In 1973, Ron began producing fiddle contests and promoting bluegrass shows throughout Louisiana and southeast Texas. He and his wife Georgia produced the first bluegrass/fiddle club and newsletter in the state of Louisiana, the Southwest Louisiana Fiddler and Bluegrass Club, from 1974 to 1976. Ron continues to promote several bluegrass shows each year, including the Beauregard Parish Fair Fiddle Contest, an event that has been viable since 1925.

Ron Yule. Photo: Elona Weston.

After retiring, Ron began amassing all the data and pictures he had collected over the previous 30 years and started a written documentation of fiddling, bluegrass, Cajun, and country music in Louisiana with a focus on southwest Louisiana. His books include Iry Lejeune: Wailin' the Blues Cajun Style, My Fiddlin' Grounds, and When the Fiddle Was King, among others. The 2000 and 2019 Louisiana State Fiddle Champion, Ron continues to do what he loves best, which is to "play music with bluegrass, country, and Cajun friends at jam sessions, festivals, nursing homes and anywhere they'll allow the noise."

The Event: Dr. Shane Rasmussen and Dr. Susan Roach will interview Ron Yule focusing on his life as a fiddle player and cultural historian after a ceremony in which he will be honored as Louisiana tradition bearers at the open jam session.