AUGUSTA — A week after Independence Day celebrations, the 2014 Festival de la Bastille is scheduled to kick off in Augusta.

The festival, organized by Le Club Calumet, will run July 11 and 12, a few days earlier than the traditional Bastille Day celebration of July 14, the French national holiday marking the fall of the Bastille prison in Paris in 1789, the beginning of the French Revolution.

This is the 19th Festival de la Bastille in Augusta, said Patrick Boucher, festival chairman this year, who’s busy making the arrangements, drumming up support, generating publicity and collecting volunteers for the celebration of Franco-American culture.

“There is a committee of over 30 people,” he said. “No one person is the festival. I have a super crew, and out of those 30 people, there’s only seven people older than I am. We have a lot of young people getting involved, and this will ensure this festival will go on for many years.”

While he didn’t give his age, he admitted to having a grandson born this past week. The club itself has 900 members.

In 2012, the festival attracted 2,800 to 3,000 for the three-day weekend. Boucher said it costs $80,000 to $90,000 to stage the festival, and that’s possible with the contributions from 50 sponsors, large and small businesses and organizations.

“I think it’s really a testament to the central Maine area that people still give to so many things,” Boucher said.

The festival is held every other year. The Franco-American festival ran annually from 1984 to 1997, and was restored in 2006 through the efforts of Edna Doyon and the late Joyce Gagne after the club started admitting women as members.

This year organizers decided against holding Sunday events after consulting sponsors and reviewing the last three festivals. In past years, Sunday’s big event was a parade, but that has not been held since 2006.

“There were more people in it than watching it,” Boucher said. Traditionally the route traveled from the club along Northern Avenue — where many of the club members had lived — and downtown.

Sunday is also the day with the least attendance. Now, Boucher said, “it would give us a day to clean up and tear down where people wouldn’t have to take time off from work.”

A number of volunteers help create the festival setting. A large tent is set up the Tuesday before the festival, and then volunteers — many of them local contractors — arrive after work to begin preparing the venue.

Opening ceremonies are set for 6 p.m. Friday, with the kitchen opening earlier and offering popular Franco-American specialties of salmon pie, tourtiere (meat pie), boudin (blood sausage) and side dishes of beets and french fries with and without gravy.

Harry Roy remains kitchen chairman, and despite recent health problems, he’s determined to be there, Boucher said. Roy has been at every Bastille Day celebration held by the club, and recalls that crowds in the early years reached 10,000.

Fireworks are scheduled to go off at 9:15 p.m. Friday, followed by music by C.J. Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band. Boucher said a particular attraction this year will be the performances by Jean-Guy Piche with La Tournee du Bonheur. Piche, who is from Quebec, has a number of followers in Augusta and in Lewiston.

Information and the schedule of events is available on the club’s website at www.calumetclub.com.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams


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