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Music, dance add spark to Ste. Genevieve French Heritage Festival

Dancers in French-Colonial costumes perform a folk dance at the Felix Valle House Historic Site. Music and dance are featured events at the Ste. Genevieve French Heritage Festival.
Dancers in French-Colonial costumes perform a folk dance at the Felix Valle House Historic Site. Music and dance are featured events at the Ste. Genevieve French Heritage Festival. Photo courtesy of Sandra Cabot-Ste. Genevieve Tourism

Ste. Genevieve will celebrate 300 years of heritage when the city’s annual French Heritage Festival takes place Saturday, June 14. But it’s not all pomp, circumstance and dry re-enactments.

“Ste. Genevieve is known as a quaint, historic destination. This is the oldest permanent European settlement in Missouri. But the French Heritage Festival adds so many other elements. It’s the storytelling, food, dance and music. We celebrate that unique part of our history. The magic comes at the open air concert, when people hear fiddle music and just want to celebrate and have fun,” Ste. Genevieve tourism director Sandra Cabot said.

The festival officially opens at noon at the Church of Ste. Genevieve, 49 DuBourg Place, followed by the traditional “grand promenade,” featuring participants in French Colonial period clothing.

Those wanting an early taste of history can attend a “tea and cake” party from 11 a.m. to noon in the backyard of the Jacques Guibourd House, 1 N. Fourth St. The event, hosted by former French queen Marie Antoinette (portrayed by local resident Bonnie Samuelson), includes a “Storytelling in the Garden” session by Rose Nester of St. Louis. She will present traditional folktales and fables in French.

Re-enactments of Ste. Genevieve’s early military and cultural history will take place during the festival. The Ste. Genevieve French Militia camp will be set up behind the Felix Valle House Historic Site; members of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War will be at the Ste. Genevieve County Courthouse on Third Street. ‘Resurgent Artists’ will paint at various locations in recognition of the 80th anniversary of the Ste. Genevieve Summer School of Art.

Most of the festival activities are free, but Cabot said those who want to tour Ste. Genevieve’s historic houses and sites will have to buy a “Historic Passport,” The fee ($15 for adults, $5 for children) allows visitors to tour the Bolduc House, Felix Valle Historic Site, Jacques Guibourd House and Ste. Genevieve Museum.

Visitors who want to take a break from walking around the festival area can pay a nominal fee for formal horse carriage rides.

Music begins at 11:30 a.m. with Les Petits Chanteurs, Ste. Genevieve’s children’s folk singing group.

Entertainment continues with concerts in Main Street Park by Lynn Rose Terry & Friends (12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.) and Dennis Stroughmatt’s Et L’Espirit Creole (7:30 p.m. to 10:45 p.m.). Stroughmatt recently won a 2014 Missouri Humanities Council award in the “Exemplary Community Achievement” category.

Performers also will take the stage at Lions Park from noon to 4 p.m.

French dancing and folktales will be presented at the Felix Valle Historic Site at 7 p.m. Visitors can also take a candlelight tour of the Felix Valle House.

A variety of “street food” will be available, including pork burgers at Main Street Park and jambalaya at Lions Club Park. Cabot said local restaurants Stella and Me, and Station 2 Café will feature special festival-themed items. The Bolduc House’s open-air market, at the southwest corner of Market and Second streets, also will be open.

Wine and beer is available at Main Street Park. Cabot added Sainte Genevieve Winery will offer a “Red, White and Blue Sangria” in honor of the festival.

For more information about the French Heritage festival, call the Ste. Genevieve Welcome Center at 800-373-7007 or visit www.visitstegen.com.