2017-06-17 / Front Page

Now's the time: La Kermesse returns next week

By ALAN BENNETT
Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD — Following their “triumphant return” to St. Louis field last June, the La Kermesse Franco-Americaine Festival is back again this year, and here to stay.
 
“Last year went amazing,” Jessica Quattrone, president of the La Kermesse board of directors, said Friday. “I think being back in a central location around a residential area was really helpful.”
 
The festival had traditionally been held at St. Louis field until 2010 when heavy rain and machinery caused extensive damage to the field, resulting in $25,000 worth of repairs. Because of the damage, city officials banned the festival from the field until last year.
 
Hot off the heels of last year’s success, Quattrone said this year’s festival is sure to appeal to even more people, starting Thursday with the annual Block Party  — complete with fireworks at 9:30 p.m. —at the corner of Water and Main streets, in Mechanics Park, and continuing with three full days of entertainment. The traditional parade will be held Friday at 6 p.m.
 
Among the attractions are several musical groups, professional wrestlers — including several with World Wrestling Entertainment (who are yet to be announced) — and a beer tent for those of legal drinking age.
 
Also of note, Quattrone said, is the festival structure. To accommodate those who may find it hard to pay an entry fee, rides and food vendors will be kept on Prospect Street, with the gateway into the field along Prospect Street — that way, she said, people who want and can afford to see the live entertainment can, and those who only want to go on the rides can pay as they wish.
 
“We’re very aware that not everybody in Biddeford makes the same income, and there are people on fixed incomes because they have three, four kids, or expenditures beyond their rent and food,” Quattrone said.
 
Paul Gagne, treasurer of the La Kermesse board, said the decision to move back the festival gate will be helpful for those who only wish to ride the rides.
 
“This way is much better for them,” he said Friday.
 
Those on the board are also happy with the city’s decision to amend an ordinance allowing alcohol on city fields with council permission, as patrons have for years requested beer to accompany their live music.
 
“I think (the City Council) did a spectacular job making it across the board fair for all groups in this area to be able to have (alcohol) as an option at their event,” Quattrone said. “From where we stand, we may not make a penny on it, but it doesn’t matter. The fact is it’s there as an option for our patrons.”
 
But the nostalgia, she said, is what will really draw people to the event celebrating its 35th year in operation.

“The nostalgia of having it back where it used to be for so many years ... that brings back a lot of fond memories for people, and this year we’re definitely building upon that,” she said.
 
Gagne extended thanks to the council for making it possible to be back on St. Louis Field.
 
“I would like to thank the city of Biddeford, the councilors, the mayor, the city manager for getting us back on this field,” he said. “Without their support, we wouldn’t be here. That was a big plus for us and hopefully a turning point and we’ll be here another 30-plus years.”
 
Ray Gagne, vice president of the board, said all the effort put into setup, maintenance and cleanup of the festival is worth it, once he sees people enjoying themselves on St. Louis Field.
 
“I was born here, and I’m a retired fire chief, and I always gave back to the community all my life,” he said. “I enjoy the people coming in on the weekend and their smiles. ... That’s worth a lot to me.”
 
A full schedule of La Kermesse Festival events can be found online at www.lakermessefestival.com/.
 
— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or abennett@journaltribune.com.

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