Oyez, Oyez! Les Fêtes de la Nouvelle France 2012 Program is Revealed!

Oyez, Oyez!  Les Fêtes de la Nouvelle France 2012 Program is Revealed!

Article and photographs by Sarah Williams

Wednesday was the grand unveiling of this year’s installment of the Fêtes de la Nouvelle France here in Quebec City.  The chosen venue for the big announcement: inside the extraordinary Chapelle de l’Amérique-Française. There, mingling with the assembled guests, historic characters chatted casually about navigating the rough seas on their voyage over from France or the daily trials of life in the colony.  A taste of things to come – as this August 1st to the 5th, the old town of Quebec will turn into a living, breathing history lesson.

Other cities have historic villages; a segregated place apart from the quotidian, where people go out of their way to visit.  This is where the experience of the New France festival differs.  For five days the old city is imbibed with these actors in costumes and in-character, interacting with the visitors, telling stories, singing songs, performing feats, and informing.  The goal is to try and recreate a full-sensory reflection of what life was like in the very streets of old Quebec, around 300 to 400 years ago.

The festival has done such an outstanding job that it’s been added to the Canadian Tourism Commission’s exclusive list of Signature Experiences: must-do activities for tourists when paying a visit to Canada.  And it seems every year that the festival’s organizers are getting more and more invested in their purpose.

Pierre Corbeil, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, announcing a $610,000 contribution from the government.

Take Place Royale for example, the place which is considered the cradle of French civilization in North America. It is the location of the first fort built by Samuel de Champlain in 1608, as well as the first public place of commerce, where goods were exchanged by the traders.  This year the plan is to revive the original function of Place Royale as a bustling market place for the duration of the festival.  Once again vendors will be hawking their wares, entertainers will sing and perform for passers by, and food and beverages will be served.

Speaking of food; Place de Paris has always been the main location for visitors to find a good bite to eat or a little something to wet your whistle.  This year is no exception. In fact, the Auberge SAQ, a licenced establishment, is expanding so there will be room to accommodate more guests.  There will also be a greater variety of food vendors than previous years, and as in the past, all the stalls will feature products cultivated or produced in Quebec.  You even get a free ice cream when you purchase the medallion (the entry ticket for certain sites). I highly recommend you try it, the ice cream, also made in Quebec, is delicious!

A “scientist” explaining the astrolabe medallion.

The 2012 medallion is also worthy of note, as a nod to the theme of exploration and invention, it is modeled after Samuel de Champlain’s astrolabe.  The astrolabe was a navigational instrument which helped explorers to establish latitude by measuring the position of the sun or stars using an astronomical table.  This year’s medallion distinguishes itself by having real functional, movable parts.  You can purchase it for 8$ in pre-sales at any SAQ outlet, or for 10$ on site at the festival.

The whole thing kicks off officially on the 1st at 7 pm with a parade of giant marionettes; 20 historic characters, looming at around 5 metres tall will march down Grande-Allée accompanied by 600 other entertainers creating quite an impressive spectacle.  This will be followed by a performance on a new stage in Place de Paris by renowned musicians, Le Vent du Nord, playing their particular brand of traditional Quebecois music.

As for the other events that make up this five day extravaganza, there are just too many to recount.  You can find out more by checking out the program on the festival’s website: http://www.nouvellefrance.qc.ca

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About the author:

SARAH WILLIAMS is a mother of three young children, who says she writes just to stay sane.

Sarah had her first experience living in Quebec while earning her bachelor’s degree in Communications at Concordia University (MTL) in the late nineties.

Hailing from Cobourg, Ontario, Sarah moved to Quebec City in January of the year 2000. For her, this city is the perfect balance of the small town feel of her hometown in Ontario and the vibrant francophone culture of Montreal.

Professionally, Sarah has worked a fair bit in the media as a copywriter and researcher; for Global Television, and for a T.V. cooking show (what’s cooking).
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