AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage on Wednesday joined dignitaries from Canada, France and the province of Quebec to celebrate the state’s French culture and honor the 2011 inductees into Maine’s Franco-American Hall of Fame.
“The Franco-American community here in Maine has a proud, long history,” LePage said during the noontime ceremony in the Hall of Flags in the State House, which was also attended by members of the Legislature’s Franco-American Caucus. “For over 400 years, the language, history and people have enriched our state.”
Festivities at the state capitol included a Franco-American breakfast menu at the cafeteria, historical and cultural exhibits and performances of French music.
Franco-American Day in Maine began in 1998, and nearly one-third of Mainers have French roots.
“It’s very, very important the 30 percent of Mainers with French heritage take pride in their history, their culture, their diversity,” LePage said. “And it makes me very proud to be only the second governor of this great state to come from French heritage … first Republican, by the way.”
LePage is the state’s first popularly elected Franco-American governor, but, as he noted, not the first Maine governor with French roots. The first, Gov. Alonzo Garcelon, a Democrat, was selected by the Legislature to serve as Maine’s chief executive in 1878.
Also as part of the Wednesday festivities, U.S., Canadian and French national anthems were sung in the House and Senate, where legislators recognized Franco-Americans, and the Franco-American Veterans Post 31 in Lewiston presented colors.
During the Hall of Flags ceremony, six people were inducted into the the state’s Franco-American Hall of Fame. The inductees are Terry Ouellette, president and founder of St. Agatha Historical Society and a longtime teacher in St. Agatha; Patrick Paradis, mayor of Augusta; and Claire and Gilles Auger of Sanford.
Inducted posthumously were Dr. Edward Martin, a physician from Rumford, who died in 2001, and Sister Solange Bernier of Lewiston, who died in 2007.