L’Association des Francophones et Francophiles du Nord-Ouest (AFFNO) is celebrating a double milestone this year as they reach their 20th anniversary as an association and their 10th annual sugar shack.
In honour of the special milestones this year’s event is going to be longer and sweeter than ever, with a 10 day festival beginning Jan. 23 and lasting until Feb. 1.
“When we started trying to drum up support for our first one people kind of said ‘you want to do what?’ It took a couple of years to get it off the ground and for people to figure out it’s been a lot of fun with amazing food and a family event,” said Patrick Witwicki, executive director, AFFNO. “But now it’s to the point where we have sellout events.”
Witwicki compared the inaugural year to an Arizona Coyotes NHL game.
“The numbers are quite good and you can say you had a lot of people in, but that’s because you let them in for next to nothing to create interest,” he said.
AFFNO’s plan did drum up support and ever since then things took off until their first sell out in 2016. This year is predicted to be another massive success with even more events added in the line up.
One big add-on this year is the addition of a Québécois band which AFFNO decided to bring on tour during the festival. Bon Débarras, a folk band inspired by the memory of French-speaking America, will be performing at the Lester Centre of the Arts on Jan. 30 and heading to Terrace and Smithers afterward.
Witwicki expects the performance to be a success despite a show entirely sung in French.
“We all understand music regardless of the language,” Witwicki said. “We are also getting the high school kids involved to create some excitement.”
Taylor Bachrach and the president of Canadian Parents for French (CPF) are coming to Rupert to celebrate the special anniversary as well.
Tickets for the famous Sugar Shack Brunch, set for Feb. 1 at the Civic Centre, are available at Cook’s Jewellers, or at the AFFNO office located on 115 Third St. Tickets are also available at the event but Witwicki warns that the annual brunch is usually sold out day of.
Pouding chômeur, a dessert that was created by female factory workers in Québec during the Great Depression, will be added to the menu of sweets this year. Fried bread will also be served, to incorporate more food indigenous to the Prince Rupert region.
Bilingual musician, and children performer, Will Stroet will be the musical guest during the brunch.
AFFNO also partnered with SD52 and Annunciation, to have Stroet attend every elementary school as well as the middle school to provide students with a performance and song writing workshops.
Full schedule of events:
Jan. 23 at 7 p.m.: Francophone film screening — Famous Players Prince Rupert Cinemas;
Jan. 24 at 7 p.m.: Kick-off social — Cowpuccino’s;
Jan. 25 at 8 p.m.: Open mic (19+) — Wheelhouse Brewery;
Jan. 28 at 6 p.m.: Meet-and-greet with CPF and AFFNO (19+) — Wheelhouse Brewery;
Jan 29. at 7:30 p.m.: Bon Débarras live in Terrace — REM Lee Theatre;
Jan. 30 at 7:30 p.m.: Bon Débarras live in Prince Rupert — Lester Centre of the Arts;
Jan. 31 at 8 p.m.: Hook, Line and Snicker — Tom Rooney Playhouse;
Feb. 1 at 12-2 p.m.: Annual Sugar Shack Brunch — Jim Ciccone Civic Centre.
Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
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