2017-06-22 / Front Page

C’est Le Temp

La Kermesse is 35 years this weekend
By Grant McPherson
Staff Writer


La Kermesse Vice President Ray Gagne with his lunch during a day of set up before the festival. The La Kermesse board of directors provides lunch for all of the volunteers who help get the festival ready. Gagne said the first planning meeting for next year’s festival will be held within the next month. (Grant McPherson photo) La Kermesse Vice President Ray Gagne with his lunch during a day of set up before the festival. The La Kermesse board of directors provides lunch for all of the volunteers who help get the festival ready. Gagne said the first planning meeting for next year’s festival will be held within the next month. (Grant McPherson photo) BIDDEFORD – The 35th Annual La Kermesse Franco- Americaine Festival will be held at St. Louis Field, the second year in its original location after backlash from damage to the field forced the festival to relocate. La Kermesse President Jessica Quattrone said the events will kick off 6 p.m. Thursday, June 22 with a free block party and fireworks later in the evening. Quattrone said the focus last year was adjusting to the return to St. Louis Field.

She said one common response from last year’s event was the lack of alcohol served, which was due to a city ordinance forbidding the sale of alcohol on city and school grounds. Quattrone said she spoke with an 85-year-old woman last year who said her only complaint was there was no beer at the festival, and that prompted Quattrone to investigate the possibility of serving alcohol. She said City Manager Jim Bennett was helpful in working with the group to devise a way for them to sell beer and wine this year.


From left, Diane Dupuis, Richard Villemaire and Celine Lariviere help prepare and serve lunch for the other La Kermesse volunteers. They began cooking at 8 a.m. (Grant McPherson photo) From left, Diane Dupuis, Richard Villemaire and Celine Lariviere help prepare and serve lunch for the other La Kermesse volunteers. They began cooking at 8 a.m. (Grant McPherson photo) “We created a new policy,” Quattrone said. “Any group can go through steps to make alcohol a part of their event if they want.”

La Kermesse Vice President Ray Gagne said in the past, heavy rainfall during the festival caused damage to the baseball field while the rides were moved on and off the field. Gagne said with the help of Waterhouse Field Alumni Association President Jim Godbout and Biddeford Superintendent Jeremy Ray, the rides will be located on the tar next to Waterhouse Field and food vendors will be on Prospect Street.


From left, La Kermesse Co- Operations Manager Lauren Cote, Vice President Ray Gagne and President Jessica Quattrone on the Maine tent stage. The stage took nearly three full days for volunteers to construct. It will see acts such as the Stepping Out Dance Centre and High Ryder on Saturday, June 23 and the Alumni Band and the LeBlanc Family on Sunday, June 24. (Grant McPherson photo) From left, La Kermesse Co- Operations Manager Lauren Cote, Vice President Ray Gagne and President Jessica Quattrone on the Maine tent stage. The stage took nearly three full days for volunteers to construct. It will see acts such as the Stepping Out Dance Centre and High Ryder on Saturday, June 23 and the Alumni Band and the LeBlanc Family on Sunday, June 24. (Grant McPherson photo) “It’s all thought out pretty well I think but there’s always room for improvement,” Gagne said. “We’re looking to prevent major issues like we had in the past.”

Quattrone said the fireworks are typically a highlight of the festival. She said because the festival will make a $2,500 donation to Maine Shriner’s hospital, every Shriner in Maine will be at the parade at 6 p.m. Friday, June 23. The donation will go to Boston’s Children’s Hospital and is possible through ticket sales from the previous year’s festival. Quattrone said Limitless Wrestling will host matches 7 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Quattrone said there will also be music all day on Saturday, a petting zoo, pony rides and Biddeford Boy Scout Troop 308 will host a jamboree.

Quattrone, 41, said she’s been involved with the festival for 32 years and remembers attending when her father was a vendor starting in 1986. She said she enjoyed the feeling of community from organizations that attended such as St. Mary’s Church and the Fremont Club when she was younger. She said the Knights of Columbus still sell lobster rolls but hopes to see more community organizations and businesses involved in the future.

“Being the platform for a group to fundraise is really important,” Quattrone said.

Gagne wanted to recognize the support of the York County Sheriff’s Department which has brought low risk offenders to help set up the festival for the past 16 years. Gagne said the inmates work hard and volunteers would have a difficult time without them.

Keith Merrifield, a community works officer for York County Jail, said it’s a great opportunity for inmates and they enjoy giving back to the community. Merrifield said one inmate owned his own carpentry business and another had experience landscaping. He said one inmate in particular returned to volunteer after being released and has stayed away from drug use since.

“La Kermesse showed him what he’s missing, what he could be doing,” Merrifield said. “A lot of guys actually enjoy helping out and just working with their hands.”

Gagne also wanted to thank the city of Biddeford for its cooperation in setting up the festival as well as the many sponsors of the events, including the Heart of Biddeford, a nonprofit quasi municipal organization focused on projects in downtown Biddeford area.

Quattrone said the group of volunteers has overcome a lot of adversity over the years. She said before the field was damaged rainwater used to accumulate up to people’s knees. Quattrone said a former La Kermesse president was jailed for embezzlement three years ago, but fortunately an anonymous donation of $40,000 to the organization allowed them to continue operation today.

“I can say that without that money we wouldn’t have survived,” Quattrone said.

Quattrone said she is excited and nervous, but hopes people come and enjoy themselves this year. Quattrone was happy with last year’s turnout and hoping for even more this year. The festival has also made entrance to the rides free to help families on a budget. Access to the music and other activities is $7. Passes are available for purchase ahead of the festival or a bracelet can be purchased on the day of the events. Buttons haven’t been used for admission for seven years now, but souvenir versions will be available for purchase.

“We’re trying to make La Kermesse more accessible to all families in Biddeford, no matter their economic status,” Quattrone said. “We’re making sure everybody has the opportunity to come if they want to.”

Contact Staff Writer Grant McPherson at news@inthecourier.com

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