After a year of cancellations due to the pandemic, the first Ste. Genevieve signature festival is returning this weekend.
The French Heritage Festival will take place in historic downtown Ste. Genevieve on Saturday and Sunday.
“We're just excited to be able to offer this and to feel like we're moving forward,” Ste. Genevieve Director of Tourism and co-organizer Sandra Cabot said.
This annual festival celebrates 300 years of French culture in North America, from Quebec to New Orleans. It also recognizes Ste. Genevieve’s status as having the greatest concentration of authentic French Colonial architecture existing in North America.
It is sponsored by the Foundation for Restoration of Ste Genevieve. Cathy Grusling is the other organizer.
Cabot said they will be taking precautionary measures, as everything will be taking place outside and masks will be available for those who aren’t vaccinated. Many of the restaurants will also have outdoor seating available.
There are a couple of new things this year, she said. All of the music has been moved to during the day at outdoor venues. Live music will take place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Dennis Stroughmatt et l’Espirit Creole is the headliner and will play from 3-6 p.m. at Lions Club Park. Creole Stomp will play from 1-3 p.m.
“We have moved him up to the afternoon,” Cabot said. “Normally, he plays for a street dance in the evening, but we've moved that up to the afternoon just to make sure that everyone is comfortable. He has a large following and we know that that will be a popular event.”
At the stage on North Main Street, Academy Hill will play from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and Bluesette Trio from 1:30-3 p.m.
“My favorite part is the celebration of Creole cultures, the mix of cultures that St. Genevieve represents so beautifully,” Cabot said. “And I absolutely love the music. It's a feel-good, toe-tapping, makes you want to get up and dance kind of music.”
Another new addition this year is walking garden tours from 9-10:30 a.m. on Saturday. The Ste. Genevieve Garden walk, which is usually in May, didn’t happen this year.
“The gardens are so beautiful that several private residences have opened up their gardens on Saturday morning for just a little stroll,” she added.
Cabot said the Ste. Genevieve Museum Learning Center will also be open this year with French-themed activities on top of its current dinosaur display.
The festival kicks off Saturday morning with a guided Audubon Bird Walk at 7 a.m.
Opening ceremonies will takes place on the steps of the Church of Ste. Genevieve at 10:30 a.m. with Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI making an appearance. French carols by the Ste. Genevieve Chanteurs, a salute by the Ste. Genevieve Militia, a traditional benediction, and a Grand Promenade through the historic district will follow.
Throughout the day, there will music, dancing, storytelling, skills demonstrations by re-enactors, children’s activities, French Colonial architectural tours, plus vendors, festival food, beer and wine, and other refreshments.
In the evening, the Felix Valle State Historic Site will host La Veillee, a demonstration of traditional French dancing, at 6 p.m.
Sunday will feature a self-guided French Colonial Gardens Driving Tour with six traditional French-themed gardens in Ste. Genevieve and in Prairie du Rocher, Illinois. Maps are available at the Ste. Genevieve Welcome Center.
Nikki Overfelt-Chifalu is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at email@example.com.