This year, thousands of tourists have flooded Quebec City as it celebrates the 400th anniversary of its founding.
Can’t make it to Quebec this year? Don’t worry. The American Folk Festival on the Bangor Waterfront is bringing a bit of Quebec to you when Bangor’s summer event opens this Friday.
Folk festival organizers made a conscious decision this year to include musical acts, crafters and chefs who are either from the province or who have Maine ties to Quebecois culture.
“We thought it would be appropriate,” said Maine Folklife Center Director Pauleena MacDougall, who is also vice chairman of the folk festival board of directors. “It was something that we talked about at our board meetings this year and made the decision to do. We don’t always have a theme that’s as integrated as that, but we’ll do it when we want to highlight something. It seems that the 400th anniversary of Quebec is very significant.”
It is, especially to many Mainers who have ties to Quebec because of their location, such as the border communities of the St. John Valley, or because of ancestry.
Three musical acts appearing in Bangor this weekend have direct links to Quebec or its roots in northern Maine. The group with the strongest tie is Genticorum, a trio from Quebec that performs traditional Quebecois music. The Beaudoin Legacy is a family of musicians from Burlington, Vt., who have ties to the Laurentian region of Quebec. Franco House Party celebrates Franco-American traditions from Aroostook County and Louisiana.
Another group, Chuck & Albert, taps into Acadian traditions but is based in Prince Edward Island.
Organizers also made an effort to include artisans who have Quebec or Acadian roots, or focus on crafts from those areas. Woodcarver Rodney Richards, boat builders John Connors and Dave Wylie, rug braider Julie Trudel, and the Madawaska Weavers are among the craft artists with ties to the region and tradition.
The Foodways Stage this year features Aroostook County and the Quebec connection, too. The theme is “A Taste of Aroostook — Un p’tit gout d’Aroostook” and will include traditional Acadian cooks such as Michael Corbin of Madawaska.
“What we are primarily highlighting in the folk and traditional arts area are the Acadian French who were the earliest French settlers [in Maine],” MacDougall said. “We find them today in the St. John Valley. There’s still a lot of back-and-forth [across the border], and people are related.”
Visitors to the folk festival also may hear mention made of the 400th anniversary when the Quebecois artists and performers are introduced to the audience.
The Bangor Waterfront won’t be the same as the cobblestone streets and old fortress walls of Quebec, but the goal of the folk festival theme this year isn’t to copy the 400-year-old city.
“It’s more of a manifestation of Maine’s connections to Quebec,” MacDougall said. “That’s what we’re trying to convey, that we have a very strong cultural connection, and it comes out in some of these traditions.”