The third annual Franco Fest takes over the Arts Station this weekend with the intention of celebrating international French culture.
The festival is hosted by the Association Francophone des Rocheuses du Sud (AFRos), which translates to the Association of Francophone of the Southern Rockies. It is held near International French Day on Mar. 20, but is moved a week ahead to coincide with this year’s March break.
“The last two years we’ve done our festival in the middle of March Break because we wanted to be close to the [Mar. 20] date,” said Isabel Craig, an organizer of the event.
This year, French musician Sebastien Pomerleau is performing at the Arts Station. He has been working with students in the area since the fall.
“He has actually been working with the students at the French school, and they did a song together. So over Skype and since the fall they have been working together,” said Craig. “This guy, his voice is really phenomenal, he started as a band, and as his band kind of grew smaller, he just picked up all of the instruments, so he plays everything. He is a one-man show.”
Pomerleau, hailing from Sherbrooke, Que, plays in a band called Auguste and will be the featured performance at the Franco Fest. There will also be performances from Stéphanie Lemieux and Sonia Roy.
While the fest currently consists of only one night, organizers hope there is room for it to grow.
“AFRoS is a small organization, and just to get the fundraising for the event takes a lot of time. We would eventually like a movie for the children or maybe a day festival. It would always be around this week,” said Craig.
Hélène Mohoric, who is a part of AFRoS and is an organizer of the Franco Fest, says that the Elk Valley is home to a large concentration of French speakers.
“There always seems to be somebody who speaks French. In the Valley itself, statistically speaking, we are one of the communities that has the largest presence,” she said. “This area has one of the highest percentages of French speaking individuals in the East Kootenay area.”
Both Mohoric and Craig encourage people to check out AFRoS and the Franco Fest, saying the organization is not just for Francophones.
“With the association, everything we do is not just for people who speak French or who are fluid in French,” said Mohoric. It’s for anyone who has an interest in French speaking culture. It’s not just for people who are French or from Quebec. It’s everybody else as well.
Right now, AFRoS is based in Fernie, but they are hoping to expand west, ultimately to border with a Nelson-based organization of a similar Francophone nature.
The Franco Fest will take place at the Arts Station, starting at 6 p.m. on Mar. 12. Tickets are available at Le Grand Formage, Ecolé Sophie-Morigeau and at the door.