Franco-American and Acadian cultural exhibits were among the offerings at the popular Children’s Village section at the American Folk Festival in Bangor last month.

In past years, a children’s craft area was part of the festival’s programs. A new idea emerged for this year’s festivals when organizers included an expanded neighborhood for crafts, where awareness about the Franco-American and Acadian French cultures in Maine was featured. Native American, Chinese and Latino program were also highlighted cultures.

Cultural attractions included a “gigueux” dancing doll, combined with storytelling by Michael Parent of Portland and entertainment by a traditional spoons player named Eddie Michaud of Old Town.

Rhea Cote-Robbins is an educator and writer who led organizing efforts for the Franco-American and Acadian programs. She’s executive director and founder of the Franco-American Women’s Institute.

Her goal was to educate the children about the two Franco cultures in Maine, the Acadians and Franco-Americans.

Each culture defines the state’s French history, she says.

“I wanted aspects of the Franco-American and Acadian heritages represented because they are distinct and important in defining the Francos in Maine.”

“Quebecois culture is representative of a larger and broader geographical area of Canada than the Acadian experience,” she says.

Acadians are the descendants of the forcibly displaced French, who were routed out of Nova Scotia during the 1755 expulsion, knows as Le Grand Derangement. Quebecois are largely descended from French colonial settlers who immigrated to Quebec Province.

Children received pretend passports in the Village, and got stamps from each culture they visited. A star-shaped stamp represented the Franco-American and Acadian areas, since a star appears on both ethnic flags.

Cote-Robbins describes spoons player Michaud as “almost acrobatic” and a “virtuoso” entertainment performer. Michaud has performed with spoons for 80 years. He began when he was only 8 years old following a serious hand injury when he was in school. Cote-Robbins says the spoons were given to him as a way to play and for rehabilitation therapy.

“I saw him play informally at different locations like the Elks and church suppers around the Bangor area. I knew if I connected his talent to the crowd, the audience would be ‘wowed,’ and they were,” she says. “Everyone at the festival talked about him.”

Parent led the storytelling entertainment. “Everyone seemed to truly enjoy the program,” he said.

Some children played along with Parent in his creative “Spontaneous, Combustible, Symphony Orchestra,” using rhythm instruments they made in the Franco-American and Acadian neighborhood.

Parent joined talents with Michaud in a traditional “call and response” song titled, “Mon Papa Ne Veut Pas Que Je Danse La Polka” (My Dad Does Not Want Me to Dance the Polka).

“Eddie joined me at the beginning of the set and played along for the whole thing. So, it turned out to be the Michael and Eddie show, with participation by the kids and the whole audience. They had a good time with the song,” says Parent.

The Children’s Village intends to build a tradition of teaching children and families to be comfortable with people from different cultures. They want to teach acceptance for cultural diversity. More cultures are expected to be included next year. The Children’s Village was funded in part by the American Folk Festival with private donations of materials and volunteer assistance. The Maine Discovery Museum provided support with staff to help coordinate the neighborhood areas.

“Community volunteer help for The Children’s Village was incredible,” says Cote-Robbins.

Admission to The Children’s Village was free.