“Many, many moons ago,” an Indian brave won the affection of a maiden from a hostile tribe. Fearing the anger of the maiden’s father—the chief—the couple fled “through the palmetto swamps, past lagoons purple with iris and under live oaks flaunting ghostly banners of Spanish moss,” to what is now Shreveport.
Eventually the chief and his warriors found the lovers and with nowhere to escape the lovers petitioned to the “Great Father”. “And lo! the pure waters of a lovely lake lay sparkling between them and those who sought their lives.” The chief gave the lovers the symbol for peace and farewell and then disappeared into the forest. “The young couple so miraculously saved, lived for many years on the banks of the lake afterwards known as ‘Silver Lake.’”
Downtown Shreveport is full of history, unique architecture, and so many possibilities. Lake Street has its own unique history and gets its name from what used to be Silver Lake. The charming Caddo legend about the origin of Sliver Lake beautifully characterizes a sense of magic and overcoming the odds that the current business owners of Lake Street embody as they put in the work to transform the southern border of downtown. “Lake Street definitely has its own feel,” says Liz Swaine, Downtown Development Authority Executive Director and Lake Street property owner. “The area is transforming from manufacturing and industrial to art and design. Come to see the creativity, then hang around for trainspotting!”
On July 17th, 2014 a group of businesses on the 400 block of Lake Street opened their doors inaugurating their first Cirque du Lake opening celebration. Together, an artist marketplace—the Agora Borealis, two architecture firms—iArchitecture and Vintage Design Group—and a granola bakery—Good Granoly, began to breathe new life into the historic block of Lake Street. Over the past four years, Lake Street has continued to grow adding new businesses such as Definition Industries, a screen-printing shop; Digital Logic, a digital marking firm; the Lake St. Gallery which features a new fine art exhibition every two months from local artists; and the home of Sweetport, an ice cream truck that sells locally themed sweet treats. As the businesses of Lake Street have grown so too has the festival and this community of business owners have no intention of slowing down.
Today the Cirque du Lake Festival is held annually on the 3rd Friday in September. From Spring to Marshall, Lake Street is flooded with music, food, art, and entertainment. Intended to mimic a French market, Cirque du Lake is a collaboration of street vendors, entertainers and artisans coming together to celebrate and serve the public. “I was so inspired by my experiences in France, exploring the different handmade items sold in the street markets and watching as artists painted ‘en plein air’. There was just this creative energy watching as artists captured these moments in time. I wanted to recreate that experience in Shreveport as a way of giving back to my community,” says Katy Larsen, owner of the Agora Borealis.
The number of artists and local organizations who come together continues to grow with over 50 vendors who participated in 2017. Every year different local musicians play throughout the festival. Artists such as Outliar, Magnolia Mae, the Wall Chargers, Ziel Zuster, 318 Riddim Band, Alan Dyson, Twang Darkly, and Nate Treme have performed over the years. Showcasing musicians, artists, and businesses that are unique to Shreveport is a huge part of the festival. “It’s a great time to play with fellow art enthusiasts. Seeing the bustling vendors, performers and “foodies” leaves me with such an uplifting energy at the end of the night,” says local artist Rachel Carlson. “Shreveport is fortunate in that it is so very diverse and can be a safe haven for fierce, creative wonderers. I think Cirque du Lake does an excellent job acknowledging that. It is the perfect opportunity for people of any age, culture or distinction to get a glimpse of exactly what ‘Shreveportant’ really means.” Festival goers can enjoy a taco from local favorite Ki’Mexico, drink a local brew from Great Raft or Red River Brewery, indulge in locally themed ice cream from Sweetport, or even learn about great organizations like the Prize Foundation and Friends of the Algur Meadows, all while experiencing what Shreveport’s greatest creatives have to offer. Cirque du Lake intends to leave festival goers with a sense of pride in their local businesses, and in their community encouraging people from the area to take notice of the exciting achievements that can be accomplished when they work together.
“What is great about this festival is that it gives the public another point of interest to visit in downtown. The more opportunities we have for people to come and explore downtown, the more traffic we will have, and with more people comes the ability for members of our community to feel safe to explore and take notice of the progress we have been making over the past 4 years,” states Jeff Spikes, Owner of iArchitecture. People are investing in the Lake Street area and it is finally beginning to pay off. The more local businesses work together the more opportunities the Shreveport community will have to come together to support our local economy and build a culture of exchange and innovation. At the end of the day, our quest is all the same—to get to meet and inspire one another, and fall in love with the city in which we live. With these ideas in mind, Cirque du Lake is the perfect opportunity for the whole family to come and explore what is happening downtown, get to know their neighbors and experience the magic of what once was Silver Lake. This year’s theme will have a rhythm all its own. So this September 21st make the journey down to Lake St and “lo!” the family fun you’ve been seeking may just so happen to appear before you.