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French celebration brings culture to light

Squamish to hold first community-wide Saint-Jean-Baptiste day

Joie de vivre won't be limited to Quebecers or even French speakers at the Saint-Jean-Baptiste festival on June 24. Anyone looking to experience French music, culture and food can attend the celebration and delve into the French community here in Squamish.

"I think this is the first time there's ever been a community wide Saint-Jean-Baptiste celebration in Squamish," said Nicole Guertin, a member of the organizing committee.

"We hope it will be a great celebration!"

Saint-Jean-Baptiste is Quebec's National Day, a statutory holiday in Quebec that normally starts off with solemn ceremonies followed by lively festivities and art and sports events.

This celebration will bring just that to the table, but Guertin said she wants the festivities to focus on all francophones, not only Quebecers.

"We really want to make it more a francophone day for people from across Canada and the world than just a Quebec celebration," she said. "The objective is to celebrate the French culture all along the Sea to Sky corridor.

"We're hoping that some people from Vancouver, Whistler and Pemberton will also come down."

Mariane Belleau, who co-owns Howe Sound Juice Company and Sea to Sky Kiteboarding, moved here from Quebec and doesn't feel she's had to sacrifice her culture or her language.

"It's a personal decision to make the effort to preserve our culture and our language," said Belleau.

"Even in an English speaking region we still have a lot of access with technology to stay in touch with the French culture - we can watch television in French, listen to the radio in French and read articles on the internet in French."

The celebration will take place in a "to be determined" location downtown from 5 to 11 p.m. on June 24. Guertin said they were hoping to close off Cleveland Avenue or take over the parking lot next to Parkside Restaurant.

"I think it would be great if the main act could play on Gelato Carina's rooftop," she said.

Musicians, Acadian storytellers, artists and kiosks representing French speaking businesses across the corridor will be there to entertain. Classic French food favourites will give everyone a chance to find out why so many French Canadians "have a bit of a sweet tooth," according to Guertin.

"Poutine, sugar tarts and some maple syrup products are only a few of the things that will be ready for tasting," she said.

Guertin said it's a good time for families of French immersion students to come out and get a feel for French culture, but that "obviously everyone is welcome and should come out."

"A lot of kids in French immersion often don't have a chance to see French culture outside of the classroom and this is a good opportunity for them to see that," she said, "to see that the culture is vibrant and there's people working and living in French outside the school."

Guertin said that according to recent statistics, 15 per cent of Squamish residents speak French.

Their next planning meeting will be held Monday (May 17) and if interested in helping out, playing music or getting involved in any way contact Nicole Guertin at Nicole@lokl.com.

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