AUGUSTA — Daniel Arbour is a bit of an ambassador.

Every other year, when he returns to Maine from Jacksonville, Florida, he brings his girlfriend, Vicki Oakley, to Augusta for Le Festival de la Bastille for the food, the dancing and the family visits.

This year is a little different. Armour, who plans to stick around to attend his 40th high school class reunion a little later this month, showed Bobby and Tammy Collins, friends from upstate New York, the sights and sounds of the city where he grew up. The four sat together in the back of the festival’s main tent, catching up with friends and having a bite to eat.

This is Oakley’s third time at the festival. She likes the tourtiere, a savory pork pie, and the creton, a pork spread. A little later, she’ll like the music and the dancing.

“I wanted to try the boudin the last time, but they ran out,” she said. Boudin, a traditional blood sausage, is available in the food tent, along with crepes that are made while you watch and more standard fare, such as hot dogs, hamburgers and sweet Italian sausage. She said she’ll try some boudin this year.

Tammy Collins said she’d try it, but it might take a couple of beers for that to happen.

Sitting back in his chair right before the opening ceremony for the two-day event, Arbour said he took his friends on the grand tour of Augusta, including the back roads and the sites of the city’s mills, now long gone.

“They made cotton, paper and shoes,” he said, referring to mill jobs that supported families across the region. “I don’t know what they do now. When I grew up here, it was a great place to be.”

Festival Chairman Pat Boucher said it’s common for people to travel to Augusta in July for the festival. “One lady called me, she’s coming from Chicago,” he said, as the festival’s final kinks were being worked out in the hour before the 6 p.m. opening ceremony. “Of course, she’s from here originally.” Others are coming from Massachusetts and New Hampshire, he said, and many of the club’s members who spend the winters in Florida return in the summer and attend the festival.

Every festival presents challenges. Boucher, who is a past president of Le Club Calumet, which puts on the festival every other year, said some of the food was late being delivered, the wrong trailer was dropped off (“They could get me the right one next Thursday. That’s not going to do me any good.”), and some people were trying to bring in their own water.

As the action was gearing up in the food tent, Larry Fleury was trying to find his groove. Standing in front of a stove with four burners going, he was splashing oil into the heated pans, then pouring in crepe batter with a swirl. He had to wait for a minute, then another before he tried to turn the large, thin pancakes. Ten minutes in, he decided which two pans he would use, adjusted the heat to the burners and hit his rhythm, loading up a warming pan with the crepes as soon as they were done.

While growing up, he said, he had crepes every week, sometimes with some boudin. Now he makes them for friends and relatives, and for himself.

“I used to do this here with four pans, but the stove was lower,” he said. “I don’t know; maybe I’m just getting old.”

As he hit his stride, he moved in a kind of ballet with Terry Cloutier, who would wait for the right moment to reach into the oven below the crepe pans to pull out the tourtiere to serve it up by the slice. “All you have to do is say, ‘Move it!'” Fleury advised.

Boucher said two years ago, the event drew 4,000, and he expects the same this year. “People won’t be going to the beach tomorrow,” he said, glancing up to the cloud-covered sky.

The festival, which has a slate of major sponsors and charges $5 admission, continues Saturday at Pete Gagne Field at 65 Old Belgrade Road. C.J. Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band was booked to perform both nights just after the 9 p.m. fireworks, and a slate of French-flavored entertainment is lined up for Saturday, including La Famille LeBlanc, Chantel et Marcel and Jean-Guy Piche et la Tournee du Bonheur.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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