French Heritage Festival Draws Crowd Downtown

By MARK EVANS

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Sunny skies and summer temperatures kicked off the first full summer festival in Ste. Genevieve since 2019, last Saturday.

The annual French Heritage Festival, cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was back in full force over the weekend. Crowds were fairly big, despite temperatures in the mid 90s, with high  humidity and no cloud cover much of the day.

The festival kicked off with opening remarks by Master of Ceremonies Bill Naeger, Mayor Paul Hassler, District 116 State Representative Dale Wright and Martin Dionne, public and governmental affairs officer at the Québec Government Office in Chicago.

Les Petits Chanteurs and the Ste. Genevieve Milice took part as well, along with Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI. The Grand Promenade down Merchant Street, to Main Street then kicked off the day of activities.

Renowned Cajun fiddle player Dennis Straughmatt performed during the day, along with other live performers. Plenty of reenactors, crafters and others were on hand, along with food and drink vendors.

In addition to the usual activities, The Sainte Genevieve Art Guild held a ribbon-cutting for its new museum and center in the former museum building.

Also, the Felix Valle State Historic Site again held La Veilee, a traditional French summer celebration. It included French storytelling by Jim Baker, former site director.

“From the opening ceremonies to the final promenade, the 2021  French Heritage Festival was a lot of fun and we had a very nice turnout, despite the heat,” said Sandra Cabot, co-chair of the 2021  French Heritage Festival  committee. She called Stroughmatt’s performances “one of the highlights” of the festival.