2016-07-21 / Front Page

Organizer says festival’s first year back at field went well

By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD – La Kermesse Festival President Jessica Quattrone said the 34th annual La Kermesse Franco- Americain Festival went off without a hitch in its return to St. Louis Field for the first time in seven years.

Quattrone said the update is really the beginning of the process to get permission to use the field again next year, because the council asked to receive a recap on this year’s event, which was scheduled to take place at the Tuesday, July 19 council meeting, after Courier deadline. Until this year, the festival had been banned from the field after heavy equipment caused $25,000 of damage to the field after heavy rains in 2009.

“(The council) has given us 10 minutes to update them, but we really don’t need 10 minutes to say it went fantastic,” Quattrone said.

Quattrone said responses from neighbors and community leaders about the festival’s return to the field this year have been positive.

“The field looks great,” she said. “Other than a little yellowing of the grass because of pedestrians, it looks good. It only took one heavy rain of thundershowers and it greened right back up.”

Quattrone said the return of a block party, which was held at Mechanics Park, was also a success, but the lineup of vendors along one side of Water Street was a little too tight and inhibited the flow of people in and out of the park.

“We might do it differently next year,” she said, “close the street a little earlier and have vendors on both sides of the street.”

“It was the first (block party) in a long time,” she added. “This year, with the return to St. Louis field, we kind of be-bopped around the idea of doing the block party again. We worked with the budget and the fireworks company and Heart of Biddeford sponsored the music, so it really came together well.”

Quattrone said although the block party is free to the public, it costs the festival $25,000 to put it on, which is one reason the party had been dropped from the festival’s activities in recent years. More than 2,000 people attended the block party, she added, and during the fireworks, the bridge on Main Street between Saco and Biddeford was full of people.

Paul Gagne, treasurer of La Kermesse Franco-Americain Festival, said the block party cost slightly less than in previous years because Heart of Biddeford sponsored the music. However, the festival still paid for the fireworks, security and entertainment sound system and stage.

Gagne said the final budget for this year’s festival won’t be closed until Sept. 30, which is the end of the festival’s fiscal year, but he approximates that more than $60,000 was expended.

“As it stands right now, we should be in the black, unless some surprises come down the pike,” he said. “By the middle of October, we’ll have final numbers, reconcile our accounts and give everything to the auditors to verify.”

Quattrone said the neighbors at St. Louis Field, who used to complain about the festival, complimented the organization this year. She said that during the festival, some neighbors who live along Hillside Avenue approached her and wanted to talk with her and her heart began to sink because she thought they were going to express misgivings about the festival.

“When I saw them approaching me, I started to get a sinking feeling in my stomach, but they just wanted to tell me how well everything was organized this year.”

Quattrone said redesigning the layout of the festival to have all vendors and rides on the pavement instead of the field made a big impact on preserving the field.

“The only complaint we got was that there was no beer,” she said.

In previous years, the city ordinance had an exception written into it that allowed La Kermesse Franco- Americain Festival to serve alcohol on the city premises, but the ordinance was recently amended to remove the exception. Whether the festival would offer alcohol again in the future, would be up to the city council, Quattrone said.

Assistant Director of Public Works Ray Parent, who helped prepare the field for this year’s festivities, said there weren’t as many people in attendance this year as previous years when the festival was held there, but overall, the festival went well and caused no problems to the field.

Gagne said he hopes the festival’s success will give councilors enough confidence to extend a contract for permission to use the field through 2021.

“We’re touching base with the (city) finance committee to restart the contract, so we don’t have to keep coming back each year to start all over,” he said.

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