April 23-24, 2024

Big Towns
Lafayette, Louisiana

You’ve heard of middle America. Big Towns is a conversation for mid-sized America: Places too big to be small towns and too small to be big cities.

Big Towns is a two-day summit, celebrating mid-sized cities and what they do to thrive.


A white man with slicked-back hair wearing a sports coat and button down shirt

Keynote Conversation

David Begnaud

CBS News

David Begnaud is the lead national correspondent for “CBS Mornings” based in New York. His coverage of Hurricane Maria earned him the prestigious George Polk Award for public service in 2018, which was the first time given to a journalist since 1978. His career began in local news at KLFY-TV as an unpaid “teen reporter” while in high school in Lafayette, La. 

Mayor Paul TenHaken

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Paul TenHaken was elected 32nd Mayor of South Dakota’s largest city, Sioux Falls, in May 2018. In April, 2022, Paul was re-elected to serve a second term as mayor by securing a record-breaking 73% of the vote. 

Paul established a reputation as a leader in the marketing technology sector after founding digital marketing agency Click Rain in 2008. After growing the company for a decade, Paul exited the business in 2018 to transition into the full-time role of mayor. 

A white man seated in an office with a flag and guitar behind him

Tracks, Topics and Speakers

Big Town Success / Presented by Next City

How Lexington, Kentucky tackles big challenges through collaboration

Deonna Anderson

Next City

Dan Wu

Vice Mayor, Lexington

Lisa Adkins

Blue Grass Community Foundation

Christian Motley

Results for America

Richard Young


Growth & Economy

Economic development, innovation, sustainability, housing and planning

Chuck Marohn

Strong Towns

Monte Anderson

Neighborhood Evolution

Coral Jean Troxell

National Zoning Atlas

Dell Gines

International Economic Development Council

Mary Ellen Wiederwohl

Accelerator for America

Deonna Anderson

Next City

Allison Forbes

Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness

Health & Healthcare

Healthcare, public health, social determinants of health

Carlton Ulmer

Build A Brain

Jessica Diedling

Ochsner Health

Erica Spears

Louisiana Public Health Institute

Stephanie Manson

Our Lady of Lourdes Health

Stephanie Montgomery

Build A Brain

Civics & Media

Local journalism, civic engagement and democracy

Josh Benton

Nieman Lab

Margaret Coker

The Current

Richard Young


Community & Culture

Arts, culture and community development

José Cotto

Small Center for Collaborative Design

Caitlin Strokosch

National Performance Network

Nancy Whitworth

Former Director of Economic Development

Greenville, South Carolina

Do I live in a Big Town? 

  • Are you surprised when you don’t see someone you know at the airport? 
  • Is it hard to find somewhere local to eat on Mondays? 
  • Is your hometown left off the Weather Channel map
  • Is the nearest stop on the Taylor Swift Eras tour more than two hours away

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you probably live in a Big Town.

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How to Get Here 

By Car

Lafayette is located on Interstate 10 at the terminus of Interstate 49.

By Air 

Lafayette Regional Airport (LFT) services flights to Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Charlotte. Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport (BTR) is roughly 60 miles away. Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans (MSY) is 120 miles away. 

Where to Stay 

Big Towns is hosted at the Acadiana Center for the Arts in Downtown Lafayette. 

Room blocks are available at the following hotels on a first-come, first-served basis:

Hilton Garden Inn Lafayette/Cajundome


Use code towns 

DoubleTree by Hilton Lafayette


Ask for the Big Towns block 

La Quinta Lafayette Oil Center


Itinerary #5136B431100161
or ask for the Big Towns block 

About Lafayette

Lafayette is the hub of Acadiana, a region of South Louisiana known for Cajun and Creole culture and some of the best food, music and hospitality in the country. We’re Louisiana’s fourth largest city, with a population of roughly 120,000 and a metro community of around half a million. 

Festival International de Louisiane

April 24-28, 2024

After soaking up Big Towns, feel free to stick around for Festival International.

It's a global event that attracts 300,000 people to Downtown Lafayette. It’s a world class festival, celebrating Lafayette’s connections to the Francophone world and beyond. Oh, and it’s free. Learn more about Lafayette’s best party.

Our Partners 

Event Hosts

The Current
United Way of Acadiana

Supporting Sponsors

Lafayette Economic Development Authority
Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority
Lafayette Travel / Lafayette Convention & Visitors Commission
Next City
Tides Medical

Community Sponsors

Lafayette Downtown Development Authority
William C. Schumacher Family Foundation
Acadiana Center for the Arts
Community Foundation of Acadiana

Community Partners


First Horizon

One Acadiana



AIA South Louisiana

Brach Myers - State Representative

APA Louisiana