WATERVILLE – The rich culture and traditions of Canadians who settled here many years ago will be celebrated this weekend during the 10th annual Franco-American Family Festival.

The event typically draws hundreds of people who socialize, listen to music, eat and connect with friends and relatives at the gathering, sponsored by the Franco-American Heritage Society of Kennebec County and hosted by the city of Waterville.

Saturday’s events begin with a French Mass at 4 p.m., followed by a bean supper.

Sunday’s events, scheduled for noon to 4 p.m., include live music, children’s events, traditional foods, a tourtiere pie contest and a variety of displays.

This year, a new coordinator, Karen Rancourt-Thomas of Waterville, will take over where former festival organizers Pearley and Alice Lachance of Winslow left off.

“It’s time to cross that bridge and let a younger generation take over that festival,” Pearley Lachance said.

Rancourt-Thomas, 48, is a city councilor representing the city’s South End, where many Canadians settled to build churches, homes and businesses along the Kennebec River. Rancourt-Thomas also is the new president of the Franco-American Heritage Society.

“I’m very excited about doing this, and I’m very honored,” Rancourt-Thomas said. “It’s a great festival with great people on the board. I just hope I do as well a job as they’ve done in the past. They’re big shoes to fill. Pearley and Alice have been a wonderful asset.”

The free, two-day event starts Saturday with the French Mass at St. John the Baptist Church on Monument Street in Winslow, led by the Rev. Innocent Okozi, Corpus Christi Parish’s part-time parochial vicar.

After the Mass, the bean supper will be hosted at St. John Regional Catholic School cafeteria on South Garand Street in Winslow, sponsored by St. John’s Knights of Columbus Council. The cost is $7 for adults, $4 for children and $20 for families.

On Sunday, the family festival at Head of Falls, off Front Street, will open with ceremonies hosted by American Legion Post 5.

Rancourt-Thomas’ daughter, Ailie Thomas, 7, the 2012 Acadian Princess, will lead the Pledge of Allegiance. In past years, the festival honored a “Mere and Pere,” but in an effort to involve the younger generation, the festival is introducing the Acadian Princess, according to Rancourt-Thomas. The Lachances were named Mere and Pere of the festival during its second year.

Festival features Sunday will include live music by the bands La Famille LeBlanc and Blistered Fingers.

A variety of groups will sell tourtiere pie, beans and franks, Lebanese food and an ice cream crepe dessert to benefit various nonprofit organizations. Entries for a tourtiere pie contest will be accepted until shortly before the 1 p.m. judging by Don Breton of Winslow, who will award ribbons.

Children’s activities, including face painting and games, will be featured, as well as a classic car show and vendors.

There also will be a display of photographs and stories honoring Mainers who have died in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rancourt-Thomas said that next year’s festival will include more events to draw young people who, she hopes, will carry on the tradition.

“One of my ideas is involving schools,” she said. “We could have a little French play. It doesn’t have to be a big play or a two-hour concert, but little skits or songs in French. That way, the kids get to learn the language a little bit.”

 

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at:

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