The most important thing to know about Fred’s Lounge is that it’s only open on Saturday mornings from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The second most important thing to know about Fred’s Lounge is that you may have to dance.
For over 75 years, this virtually windowless bar in a tiny Louisiana prairie-town has reigned as “The Cajun Music Capital of the World.” The doors open at about daybreak each Saturday, serving canned beer, well-liquor, and “Fred’s Omelet”—Bloody Mary in a plastic cup. The live Cajun band kicks up around 9 a.m., from a makeshift stage roped off from the rest of the dance floor. When the accordion starts wheezing, town councilman Mike Perron starts broadcasting straight from the bar on local AM and FM stations—a tradition spanning back decades.
After World War II, Cajun culture was fading from the once-vibrant French farming communities of south central Louisiana. Children were discouraged from speaking French in schools, big bands from up north were overtaking local Cajun acts, and folks left agricultural work behind for new industries in urban centers. But Alfred “Fred” Tate put his foot down. When the French-speaking Evangeline Parish native returned from the war in 1946, he bought a red brick bar on Main Street and launched a revival of Courir de Mardi Gras.
Today, Councilman Perron narrates his broadcast in a Cajun French accent over the sounds of accordion, fiddle, and a French-speaking crooner. Regulars include a melange of local nurses, farmers, and mechanics, as well as folks who drive from several hours away every weekend to two-step the morning away at Fred’s. Those reluctant to dance will often be led by the hand to do so by Rita, the resident septuagenarian party-starter.
On a good day, someone will show up with a brown paper bag full of boudin. Still, best not to show up on an empty stomach—the boudin may not make its way around the whole dance floor, and Fred’s “omelet” is no omelet at all.