Biddeford’s St. Louis Field is pictured last week. On Tuesday, the City Council voted to allow next year’s La Kermesse Franco-Americaine Festival to be held on St. Louis Field, the festival’s original location, after a six-year absence from it.

Biddeford’s St. Louis Field is pictured last week. On Tuesday, the City Council voted to allow next year’s La Kermesse Franco-Americaine Festival to be held on St. Louis Field, the festival’s original location, after a six-year absence from it.

BIDDEFORD — The City Council voted 7-1 Tuesday to allow next year’s La Kermesse Franco- Americaine Festival to be on St. Louis Field.

From 1982 to 2009, the festival was held on St. Louis Field. The next year it was moved to the Biddeford Ice Arena, then downtown, and most recently to the field next to Biddeford Middle School, where it was held this year and last. The city told festival organizers to move La Kermesse off St. Louis Field, which is used by various sports teams, after $25,000 of damage was done to it during the 2009 festival.

But faced with issues with drainage and lighting at the middle school field, festival organizers asked the city early this fall if they could move La Kermesse back to St. Louis Field, which they call the festival’s home and which has drainage and lighting systems. Knowing there would be concerns over repeat damage, organizers came up with plans to hold the annual, four-day June festival on St. Louis Field while also ensuring the safety of the field as much as possible.

Jessica Quattrone, president of the La Kermesse board, told city councilors before Tuesday’s vote that the plans will essentially “minimize any driving or traffic on the field.” Vendors will be set up on Prospect Street, for example, and the baseball diamond will be entirely off limits to festivalgoers, said Quattrone.

Councilors for the most part expressed confidence in the plans.

“I was impressed with the attempt by La Kermesse … to alleviate as much traffic on the field as they can and to ensure as little damage as possible,” said Councilor Michael Ready. “If they’re able to adhere to the plan they have here I think the opportunity for them to get back on the field is a positive one.”

“I’m glad to see it’s coming back (to St. Louis Field), and I really wish them the best,” said Council President John McCurry.

Both the Recreation Commission and the Waterhouse Field Committee voted in favor of the plans before Tuesday’s meeting.

Councilor Clement Fleurent was the only councilor to vote against granting the La Kermesse board an events permit to hold the festival on St. Louis Field, after he raised concerns over gambling.

Although the La Kermesse board discussed and decided not to pursue the sale of alcohol at next year’s festival, Quattrone said they still hope to make up for some of that lost revenue by offering a casino tent for adults; neither alcohol nor gambling was allowed at the middle school field. “Honestly it’s just a recreational activity for adults,” Quattrone said of the casino tent.

Quattrone said another change to next year’s festival could be the elimination of the fireworks show. If that ends up being the case, the money that would have been used for a fireworks show will be used for a light show or another “special event,” she said.

— Staff Writer Angelo J. Verzoni can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or [email protected]


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