AUGUSTA — Le Festival de la Bastille got off to a rousing start Friday with the singing of three national anthems — United States, France and Canada — and the toe-tapping music of La Famille LeBlanc.

Fiddler Don LeBlanc made a circuit on the wooden dance platform urging the attendees to join him, and it didn’t take long for couples to comply.

The festival, celebrated every two years by Le Club Calumet, continues Saturday with music, dancing, including clogging, and a talent show at Pete Gagne Memorial Field at 65 Old Belgrade Road.

The festival marks the French national holiday marking the fall of the Bastille prison in Paris in 1789, the beginning of the French Revolution.

Some 850 chairs — most occupied — were set up at tables in under a large white tent, and a smaller one held an outdoor kitchen where crepes, meat pie, salmon pie, boudin and sweet Italian sausage was scooped up by the plateful.

Susan Boucher, wearing a French sailor beret from an early festival year and a button that said “TGIF: Merci Le Bon Dieu C’Est le Festival,” helped to organize the food and volunteers for kitchen manager Henry Roy.

The menu, Boucher said, has changed over the many years of the festival, with fewer diners opting for the traditional sausage or boudin. “This year there’s 25 pounds of it,” she said.

The meat and salmon pies proved much more popular. Yvonne Patenaude of Augusta carried off a plate with a pie and a sweet Italian sausage sub.

“I’m a French person. I love the French music,” she said, “But don’t ask me to write in French or spell in French.”

The food and music celebrate the region’s French heritage, and several politicians, introduced by this year’s festival chairman Patrick Boucher (Susan’s brother), offered remarks in French to the obvious delight of the crowd.

State Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, made up for a lack of French heritage by reading his speech almost entirely in French which somehow included reference to a smart phone.

State Rep. Matthew Pouliot, R-Augusta, also welcomed the crowd in French, telling them, “If you have any problems with my French, see my memere. She’s here.”

His grandmother, Lorraine Pouliot, waved back at him.

“He came up to the house this afternoon,” she said later. “He got a lesson from me.”

She congratulated him and Katz for their words.

Gov. Paul LePage, who attended the festival with first lady Ann LePage, too spoke in French and noted his family came from France in 1622 to Trois-Pistoles, Quebec.

He said he appreciated the work of clubs like Le Club Calumet that keep the French heritage alive “and educate our youth about our history.”

Parking is on site, and vans shuttle patrons from the club’s nearby parking lot on West River Road. Admission is $5 each day, and free for children under 12.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams


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