The Fêtes de la Nouvelle-France invade Quebec City

(front page article)

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Photo: Cassandra Kerwin

The Filles du Roi disembark in New France from the Grosse-Île, hoping to find husbands in the colony. 

The 19th annual Fêtes de la Nouvelle-France was a hit in Old Quebec this past week. From August 5 to 9, the festival celebrated the city’s early role as a port city. Embracing the majesty of the St. Lawrence, actors and volunteers in period costume welcomed the Filles du Roi and soldiers of the Carignan-Salière Régiment.  

On the eve of the festival’s grand opening, local celebrity chefs served samples of period recipes at the Boucan BBQ at Place de Paris. Visitors sampled various dishes such as a tender pork roast, spare ribs and pork sirloin. “We’ve been roasting since five this morning,” said Chef Max Lavoie. At a nearby stand, La Traite served duck and roast of venison, while Bel-Gaufre offered delicious Belgian waffles. Celebrity mixologist Patrice Plante displayed his passion for cocktails, although cocktails were not exactly part of the rugged lifestyle of 17th- and 18th-century Quebec City.  

Gourmet diners with deep pockets enjoyed the $165 five-course meal prepared by Laurie Raphaël restaurant’s celebrity chef Raphaël Vézina at the Auberge SAQ. “I am very pleased with the outcome of the first Boucan,” said Vézina. “I can’t wait to do it again next year. There are still a few things to tweak – like the weather.” 

 After a short but heavy early-evening rain, the setting sun created a beautiful double rainbow over the St. Lawrence River. The pace of the festivities did not let up as local band Bock et les Bavettes kicked off with music for party-goers. Musicians during the festival included the legendary Acadian Cayouche.

 The arrival of the Filles du Roi and soldiers of the Régiment Carignan-Salière at Louise Basin marked the official opening of the festival on August 5. They were greeted by a crowd as they disembarked from the schooner Grosse-Île. At Place de Paris, the Filles du Roi were introduced to the colony and its bachelors. Later that evening, they marched in the Upper Town parade.

 On the evening of August 6, the nobles of New France gathered in the Salle des Promotions of the Séminaire de Québec for the Lords and Ladies Ball.

During sundown cruises on the St. Lawrence River on August 7 and 8, guests enjoyed wine and seafood hors d’oeuvres aboard the Grosse-Île. The festival closed with the Filles du Roy marrying local men in period costume.

On the evening of August 8, participants re-enacted the historic 1690 confrontation between Sir William Phips’ envoy Major Thomas Savage and Governor General Louis de Buade de Frontenac, when the British demanded the surrender of Quebec. 

Frontenac gave Savage a memorable warning that he would reply from the mouths of his cannons and muskets. The Loto-Québec fireworks on the river then lit up the sky, giving credibility to the words on the famous plaque on the city ramparts: “Frontenac faced Phipps unflinchingly, but the scale of victory could not be turned decisively until the famous reinforcements of Carignans and French-Canadians marched in triumphantly along the Grande-Allée.”   

 A $12 medallion gave adults access to the festival’s sites, activities and food samples. Free admittance for children under 12 made the event affordable for young families. The city was crowded with locals and visitors all weekend. A little rain now and then served to cool things down a bit but did not dampen spirits. 

(More photos on page 4).