The La Kermesse Franco Americaine Festival Parade makes its way up Alfred Street last year in Biddeford. This will be the first year for the La Kermesse Festival Pageant, including a category for memeres. DINA MENDROS/Journal Tribune

BIDDEFORD — For the first La Kermesse Festival Pageant, there is a category for everyone, including memeres.

The La Kermesse Franco-Americaine Heritage Festival is a yearly event in the Biddeford community that celebrates the cultural diversity and heritage of the Biddeford community.

The four-day festival will begin this year on June 20 with a block party in Mechanics Park, and continue with the parade on June 21, heralding the opening of the festival on St. Louis Field at 4 p.m. that day.

Lisa Ottman, a newly minted addition to the La Kermesse Board of Directors, will be at the helm of the pageant. Ottman is the executive director of the New England Scholarship Pageants, and has produced pageants on both the local and state levels.

Last year, Ottman and several pageant girls and families volunteered at the La Kermesse Festival, serving in the concession stand and picking up trash on the grounds.

“The La Kermesse Festival is all about community, friends, and family coming together to bring joy to others,” said Ottman. “A pageant is all those things; community service, friendships, joy, and a personal journey.”

The La Kermesse Festival Pageant will be open to ladies and gentlemen of all ages.

For men, the age divisions will be Prince for ages 0-15, and King for ages 16 and up. Age divisions for women include  Little Miss from ages 0-5, Junior Miss for ages 6-9, Preteen for ages 10-13, Miss for ages 14-19, Ms. for ages 20 and up, and a Memere division, for which the only qualification is that the participant has grandchildren.

The Memere category was a brainstorm suggestion during a La Kermesse Board of Directors meeting, from members looking to showcase a very Franco-Americaine facet of the Biddeford community; referring to your grandmother as “memere.”

The pageant will be held on Saturday, June 22 during the festival, with interviews starting at 4:30 p.m., and runway and evening gown categories taking place at 6:30 p.m. in the Main Tent.

Participants in the pageant can also march in the parade on Friday, June 21.

Registration for the pageant is $65, with areas of competition in interview, runway is “La Kermesse fashion,” and evening gown attire. For an additional $25 each, participants can take part in the option catagories like talent, casual wear, fitness, super model, and photogenic. Participants can be from any state or country, and no prior experience is necessary for participation.

The“Miss Hospitality” award will be given to the participant who sells the most entry buttons for the festival prior to the start.

“Pageants are not as they used to be perceived. It’s not about size or about one way to look,” said Ottman. “It’s about (participants) bringing their own self forward. Being their own beautiful self, inside and out, and supporting and celebrating each other.”

The board of directors for the festival has taken care to ensure that the Franco-Americaine heritage is not only remembered, but cherished within the festival, bringing in musicians from Canada for all three days of the festival this year.

As always, the board will provide a sampling of Franco-Americaine food for sale throughout the festival, including favorites that include pork pie and poutine.

A community favorite, the crepe breakfast following a French Mass in the main tent, takes place on the final day of the festival on Sunday, June 23.

Buttons for the festival are already on sale, and are available for purchase at Market Basket, Shaw’s, Hannaford, Saco/Biddeford Savings, Biddeford Savings Bank, People’sChoice Credit Union, West Street Market, Brady Screenprint and Embroidery, and Ray’s Market.

Buttons are $13 when purchased in advance of the festival and $15 at the gate. Daily admission bracelets will also be available at the gate for $8. For more information on the La Kermesse Festival, visit www.lakermessefestival.com.

“If you have not participated in a pageant before, but have thought about it or wants to, this is the one for you,” Ottman said. “You can enjoy the day, win titles, perform a talent, make new friends. You can be an ambassador of La Kermesse all year long.”

Contact Staff Writer Abigail Worthing at [email protected].

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