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Dipping Into Cajun Culture

Dipping into Cajun culture

By Nicole T. Lesson
Staff Writer

May 13, 2002

Fort Lauderdale + Coming to the 10th annual Cajun-Zydeco Crawfish Festival on Sunday, Scott Fluegel, 13, of Weston, expected New Orleans' style music and food. But nothing prepared him for the Watermelon Sacrifice.

"I just kept walking around," said Scott, who raised up his watermelon and, like the others, let it fall to the ground. "I liked smashing the watermelon. You can get some energy out of it."

A dance of celebration, the Watermelon Sacrifice had people walking around with painted melons while singing "Red to the rind," a chant that goes way back to vendors hawking watermelons on the streets of New Orleans.

The sacrifice starts out slowly and gradually grows into a frenzy when the watermelons are thrown into the air. Then everyone rushes forward to enjoy a piece of the smashed melon.

"The children really get into things -- they sit on the watermelons and have fun," said Jack "Tu Tu Man" Varuso of New Orleans, who helped lead the sacrifice at the Fort Lauderdale Stadium Festival Fairgrounds. "This is part of tradition."

There was no escaping the aroma of spicy boiled crawfish or the sounds of Cajun and zydeco music at the three-day festival organized by the Fort Lauderdale Parks and Recreation Department. About 25 bands performed on three stages, and the Back Woods Area featured acoustic performances and history and culture workshops.

Drenched in sweat, Clifton "Crop" Leon couldn't stop dancing while Leroy Thomas and the Zydeco Road Runners were on stage.

"It's zydeco, it's the feeling of the music -- it just lifts you up," said Leon of Lafayette, La., who flew in for the festival. "No words can describe zydeco. It just grabs you in and you can't stop moving."

No official attendance numbers were available late Sunday. Debbie Dunbar, the city's festival and events coordinator, said: "We were expecting 40,000 people for the weekend, and I think we came close to that.

"It's really a festival about celebration of life and bringing people together," she said.

Nicole T. Lesson can be reached at nlesson@sun-sentinel.com or 954-385-7920.

Copyright Ā 2002, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Copyright © 2001, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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