Get yourself down to Houma, Louisiana October 20-22 for the Rougarou Fest, a family-friendly extravaganza celebrating the elusive cryptid known as the Rougarou. The Rougarou Fest website explains that rougarou is a werewolf-like creature "whose legend has been handed down for many generations, either directly from French settlers to Louisiana or from the French Canadian immigrants a long time ago." The website provides more more details:
It showcases live music, cultural activities, children's activities, Cajun food, the Krewe Ga Rou parade, and so much more. All proceeds go to the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center, a nonprofit organization that is revolutionizing how we think, teach and learn about Louisiana's disappearing coast.
The Rougarou Fest was ranked as one of the Top 10 Costume Parties in the United States by USA Today in 2014, one of the Top 20 Events out of 11 states in the month of October by the Southeast Tourism Society in 2015 and 2019, Best New Event in the state of Louisiana by the Louisiana Association of Fairs and Festivals in 2015, and Festival of the Year by the Louisiana Travel Association in 2020 and 2023. Make sure to check out our map and schedule for a listing and location for all events!
Atlas Obscura also has a great piece about the rougarou if you want to learn more about the creature:
The cryptid, usually described as a towering, hairy monster, is allegedly a human cursed to take beastly form. For centuries, if you didn't follow Catholic traditions, such as observing Lent, or if you hunted on holy days, the rougarou would get you. Even the act of self-defense could be life-altering. Foret recalls hearing of one legendary rougarou run-in, when a young boy out for a stroll, armed with only his oyster knife, encountered the creature. "As the rougarou lunges forward he defends himself and cuts its arm, thus releasing the curse from that person and putting it onto [himself]."
Atlas Obscura also provides some historical context:
Stories of the rougarou in Louisiana derive largely from 16th-century French legends of a beast called loup garou, essentially a werewolf. The name changed to rougarou in Cajun Louisiana because "'l' and 'r' are linguistically liquid consonants and they change places a lot," says Barry Jean Ancelet, a Cajun folklorist and professor emeritus with the University of Lafayette. For instance, instead of labourer, meaning to plow, sometimes you'll hear Cajuns say rabourer.
Once the rougarou settled into southern Louisiana's swampy shadows, it took on some aspects of local Native American cryptids, such as a legendary Choctaw shapeshifting owl-witch. In fact, instead of wolfish features, most Cajuns will describe the rougarou as resembling a dog or owl. "No one agrees what it looks like because they don't really have wolves in this part of our country," says Nathan J. Rabalais, author of Folklore Figures of French and Creole Louisiana.
The festival sounds like a terrific time! In addition to the amazing sounding food—including fried oyster, fried shrimp, fried catfish, and sausage po-boys; crawfish fettuccine; alligator sauce piquante; fish courtbouillon; gumbo; jambalaya; and much more—Rougarou Fest also boasts awesome-sounding events like the "nutria pardoning" and the storytelling stage:
One of the main purposes of the Rougarou Fest is to celebrate and pass on the traditions and folklore of our region as we begin to address the impacts of climate change on our bayou communities. We view the festival as a trunk of these traditions that we are able to lift up and move to higher ground when necessary. This enables us to protect these treasures that are interwoven into our identity and sense of place.
The Atchafalaya Narrative Stage, also known as a Talk Stage or a Storytelling Stage, is our way of sharing these traditions and folklore with the rest of our community and with visitors to the area. The format is very similar to a guest speaker or a panel of speakers that discuss a particular topic or demonstrate a particular tradition while a moderator facilitates the conversation and allows for questions from the audience. Topics in the past have included Hurricane Stories, Costume Making, Conversations on Louisiana French, First Nation Crafts using Native Materials, and Traditional Knowledge of Medicinal Plants.
Check out the Rougarou Festival website for more information.