Don your blues and prepare to take in copious amounts of poutine, music and beer at the biggest French cultural event to hit Squamish this year.
Organizers of the second annual St. Jean Baptiste celebration are estimating a turnout of 2,000 to 3,000 people to celebrate Quebec's National Holiday on June 24. The outdoor street party, held at the corner of Cleveland Ave. and Vancouver Street in front of the Howe Sound Brew Pub has grown significantly in scope due to increased volunteer involvement.
Sixty locals are donating time and resources this year compared to the five volunteers who managed to draw 850 people to the inaugural event last summer.
"The St. Jean's Baptiste celebration is very important to the French people and culture both here on the West Coast as well as in the east," said St. Jean Baptiste celebration organizing committee member Nicole Guertin at a press conference recently.
"We are excited to have so many talented musicians and artists involved, as well as the support of the community."
The annual celebration is held on St. John the Baptist Day; a tradition with roots that stretch back to the 1600s in France. Among the free events to be had in Squamish is a musical line-up of French and English singers, including The Children's Choir from Les Aiglons School, the African drumming of Jean-Pierre Makosso and local band Volume Collective. Water sports, a pie making contest, silent auction, a kids' corner and kiosks run by Francophone and Francophile businesses, organizations, artists and artisans will also be on deck.
"We've really seen a change in Squamish, you can now get service in French all day long - at the bakery, the meat shop, the fishery, the dentist, massage," said Catherine Drapeau, principal of ...cole les Aiglons in Squamish.
"In the past year we've worked really, really hard to show our colours in Squamish and we are very pleased to say that for the past three years we have seen an increase of 20 per cent in students every year, so the French community is very alive in Squamish and very active as well."
Drapeau emphasized the importance of the St. Jean Baptiste event to French students in the corridor, pointing out how crucial it is for young people to be immersed in their own culture, if only for a day.
An estimated 15 per cent of people living in the Sea to Sky region are Francophone.
"As a former Quebecer I know how important St. Jean Baptiste Day is," said Squamish councillor Patricia Heinzman, who addressed the audience in French and English.
"It's with utter respect and admiration also a great party and I'm looking forward to that. Of the cultural diversity in our town the French-Canadian is a big part of it, it's really something we all appreciate."
To coincide with the St. Jean Baptiste celebration announcements, the Howe Sound Inn & Brewing Company revealed their newest beer.
The cheeky La BrewHAHA!, a Belgian beer, was designed by French brewmaster Paul Wilson especially for the Fête de la St-Jean-Baptiste. Squamish language company LOKL Inc., the Scandinave Spa and the Francophone School Board are all sponsors of the event.
The street celebration begins at 4 p.m. and will move inside the brew pub at 11 p.m. for an after party with DJ Miss Kosmic.
To volunteer, contact Guertin at Nicole@lokl.com. For a full list of activities to be held at the St. Jean Baptiste celebration, go to its Facebook page: www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/Fete-de-la-St-Jean-Sea-to-Sky/118303504856501.
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