Paul Scott admits he had little interest in zydeco music when he graduated from Opelousas High School in 1982. That same year, a strange concept, something called a zydeco festival, was launched in the nearby community of Plaisance.
A year later, Scott was selling tickets to the event – the Original Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Music Festival. Thirty years later, zydeco festivals stretch from California to Raamsdonksveer, Holland.
“My interest was in the fact that there was an organization putting on an event that was black owned and black run,” said Scott. “It was something that was thought of not being very popular.
“I said I’m going to go give them a hand. I was 19 years old and stood in the road selling tickets. I just kept sticking my nose in more and more. It just went on from there.”
Scott’s work in music, festivals, culture and economic development has earned him the Richard J. Catalon Sr. Creole Heritage Award. He received the honor June 7 during the annual Creole Heritage Day at Vermilionville.
Scott’s cultural activity has helped grow some of the region’s most renowned events. For 20 years, Scott served as the assistant director of the Zydeco Festival in Plaisance, which created a template for similar celebrations across the globe.
As a past board member and current production worker, Scott has seen Festival International de Louisiane in Lafayette develop into a major player on the world festival stage. His management work with the Step-N-Strut Trail Ride has helped the event attract more than 10,000 fans annually. Scott is an active member of Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Opelousas and helped mold its Creole Festival.
Besides his full-time refinery job, Scott is active in home restorations and community housing developments that help local residents find affordable places to live.
Scott said his busy life is patterned after his mentors, such as Wilbert Guillory, founding director of the Zydeco Festival, zydeco radio pioneer Luke Collins and A. J. McKnight, former Holy Ghost pastor.
“I look at this award as an opportunity bring recognition to people who helped me,” said Scott. “I was just riding the ship. Will Guillory let me tag along for all those years. So many people I used to hang with.
“We stood in front of Slim’s Y-KI-Ki (dancehall) and handed out brochures night after night after night. I thank Will for allowing me to run amuck. If it sounded good, he went with it. I didn’t mind it either.”
Scott plans to remain active in hometown and cultural activities for years to come. He hopes to inspire a new generation of activists, just as his mentors motivated him.