A 25-year-old annual tradition of celebrating Biddeford's Franco-American heritage will take place on June 21 through 24. This year's festival is "Anniversaire d'Argent" (Silver Anniversary) for La Kermesse. "C'est le temps de celebrer notre 25ieme," says Priscille Gagnon, chairman. Translation: "La Kermesse is Biddeford's Franco-American celebration."
Tourtiere and baked beans are popular dinner selections at La Kermesse. I must admit that I haven't enjoyed tourtiere since I was a child. (Tourtiere is a meat pie, usually pork. It also contains potatoes, onions, cinnamon, cloves and perhaps other spices as well.) My French-Canadian grandmother was a tourtiere expert.
Biddeford is one of several towns in Maine with a large French-Canadian population. Most of today's residents are descendants of those who came to work in the textile mills and shoe factories in the late nineteenth century and well into the twentieth. La Kermesse is a celebration of their heritage: "La Langue, La Foi, La Culture," the language, faith and culture of French-Canadian immigrants.
This year's event includes a parade, a talent show, cloggers (dancing), a ventriloquist, comedians, magicians, a hypnotist, a family circus, Maine-made crafts, bands, and an appearance by the Budweiser Clydesdales horses.
Proceeds from La Kermesse are intended to support the development of the festival and, eventually, a building for a French-Canadian heritage museum.
You can read more about La Kermesse at http://www.lakermessefestival.com.