The first annual Prince Rupert Sugar Shack Festival d’Hiver was a great success, according to organizers.
The festival, which ran from last Thursday until Sunday, was put together by L’association des Francophones et Francophiles du Nord-Oest (AFFNO) to promote awareness and appreciation the French Canadian culture found in the North Coast area. The timing of the festival coincided with the start of the famous, annual Carnaval de Quebec, taking place in that province.
“When we look at French in this community there are many francophones and francophiles and we have a strong French immersion program…The community is richer when we celebrate our different languages and cultures, and French is a key one along with First Nations’,” said North Coast MLA, Gary Coons.
There was at least one event every day that the Sugar Shack Festival ran, all of which where packed. On Thursday night the festival was officially opened with a social at Cowpuccino’s.
On Friday, players at the Tom Rooney Theatre performed French culture-themed sketches and songs. One memorable sketch had Celine Dion acting like a spoiled diva as she auditioned for American Idol.
On Saturday, an army of volunteers wearing red toques and sashes served a brunch that included everything from molasses beans to pumpkin pie. To go along with the “sugar shack” theme, there was a tasting of maple taffy, which is made by pouring boiled maple syrup taffy onto snow where becomes solid. The brunch was attended by a around 200 people.
“Everyone was raving about the food. We had more than enough, which was good,” said Patrick Witwicki, one of the festival organizers from AFFNO.
After the brunch, there was a kids’ basketball shoot-out, where children competed to see how many balls they could get in the basket within a time limit.
On Saturday night, April Verch, a fiddler and step dancer from the French-Canadian Ottawa Valley, performed at Lester Centre with her band. The performance had the large crowd in the theater whistling, clapping and cheering during many of the songs.
On Sunday, the festival closed with a French family movie, subtitled in English.
Witwicki says since the festival was such a big success, he expects that the AFFNO will be putting it on again next