The annual La Kermesse Festival is back this weekend for its 29th year, and organizers say they want to restore its popularity.

In recent years, the festival has struggled in the wake of an embezzlement and the loss of its traditional venue at Biddeford’s St. Louis Field.

“My hope is to rebuild our credibility. We want people to understand what La Kermesse can do for the community,” said La Kermesse President Jessica Quattrone.

The festival will run from Friday through Sunday at Mechanics Park in downtown Biddeford, at the corner of Main and Water streets. It will start Friday night with a parade through Saco and Biddeford.

Events throughout the weekend will include La Kermesse Idol, live music, fireworks, zumba, a dance performance and a puppet show.

In its heyday, the festival celebrating Franco-American culture drew as many as 25,000 people. It drew only about 2,000 last year.

The scaled-down 2010 festival was held at the Biddeford Arena and Expo Center, a year after carnival rides and traffic caused $25,000 worth of damage to the rain-soaked St. Louis Field.

The festival also struggled last year as its past president Priscille Gagnon was convicted of stealing $80,000 from the festival and a local condominium association. She served three months in jail and was ordered to pay restitution.

Part of bringing La Kermesse back is keeping it simple, said Quattrone, who has been the organization’s president since August.

This year, many rides will be on the street outside the park, while vendors, crafts and performances will be in the fenced-in park. Street access will be free, while it will cost $2 to get inside the park and another $3 to see performances in the main tent.

“Honestly, this little park looks fantastic,” Quattrone said. “I think it’s going to be awesome.” 

Staff Writer Ellie Cole can be contacted at 791-6359 or at:

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