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Jumpin' Jambalaya

Cajun and Creole music to be showcased at Simi Valley festival.


What seems the height of incongruity will come to pass this weekend with the 11th annual Simi Valley Cajun Creole Festival.

This is not some generic festival with some music added as an afterthought, but rather, one of the preeminent Cajun music festivals west of the Mississippi.

Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Simi Valley, the event is about to occupy its third location, at Rancho Santa Susana Community Park, and is clearly a hit.

It must be all that Cajun, Creole and zydeco music, but why ask why?

Lisa Haley knows, having been involved in this event since the beginning and having played every year but one. Haley and her band, the Zydekats, are seeking to infect festival-goers with her brand of Louisiana zydeco music, a style she has copyrighted as "zydecosis."

The redhead, known as "the whirling dervish of violin," is so popular that she's playing both days this year. Haley is also an integral part of quality control, as she has a say in booking the bands.

"I remember when they first started this thing," Haley said. "They were asking, 'What's Cajun?' Now they call me to find out who's hot, who just released an album and who's getting a lot of press."


The festival began when one of Haley's students, who also happened to be a member of the Simi Valley Rotary Club, decided to have a music festival. And event organizer George Bercow couldn't be happier.

"The event has gotten larger and larger over the years," Bercow said. "A lot of people come from out of state to this event. This year, we've made two changes. First, we're in a bigger location, and we've improved the class, if you will, of the entertainment."

That's for sure. Geno Delafose, one of the most popular zydeco musicians in the world (at least with young people), will perform both days. Also on the bill is legendary zydeco songwriter and performer Boo Zoo Chavis.

The locals will be represented by Acadiana, basically a bunch of local Realtors but stoutly reinforced by singer-guitarist Teresa Russell and home-grown, world-class fiddle player, Phil Salazar.

With a comparatively larger bank account, fiddle star Doug Kershaw also returns. When he played last year, the fashionably late stood in an entrance line that stretched around the block.

In addition to this illustrious soundtrack, the festival will offer a host of other attractions. There will be more than 40 crafts booths with wares such as jewelry, pottery and some art, plus one booth that will create Cajun masks for children. There also will be a Mardi Gras parade each day, starting about 4 p.m.

The Cajun Creole Festival logo features two happy alligators, one playing a fiddle and the other an accordion, both apparently celebrating their escape from the alligator-on-a-stick booth. Other food booths will serve red beans and rice and seafood gumbo, but there will also be American food for the less adventurous.

The festival will feature a covered stage, a covered dance floor and covered areas to eat or just sit around, because Simi Valley, unlike the coastal cities, is having summer, and temperatures should be in the 90s.

The festival is the Rotary Club of Simi Valley's largest fund-raiser of the year. In 1998, net proceeds of more than $85,000 were distributed to a variety of nonprofit organizations in Ventura County.


The 11th annual Simi Valley Cajun Creole Music Festival, at Stearns Street and Los Angeles Avenue in Rancho Santa Susana Community Park, Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Music on Saturday: Andre Theirry & Zydeco Magic (11:30 a.m.), Lisa Haley & the Zydekats (1 p.m.), Geno Delafose & French Rockin' Boogie (2:50 p.m.), Lil' Band o' Gold (4:40 p.m.) and Doug Kershaw (6:30 p.m.). Music on Sunday: Acadiana (11:30 a.m.), Lisa Haley & the Zydekats (12:45 p.m.), Rosie Ledet (2:30 p.m.), Geno Delafose & French Rockin' Boogie (4:15 p.m.) and Boo Zoo Chavis (6 p.m.). COST: $10 for adults, free for children under age 10. CALL: 520-4894.

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