Behold the French village festival. In France every village has its day, and the village fêtes are hugely popular with the locals. They are certain characteristics you will find in every village fête.
Now you must remember we come from Charleston, where festivals run from the highly sophisticated (the annual Wine+Food Festival, with celebrity chefs vying to cook for you) to the international (Spoleto Festival USA, a three-week long festival of the arts, with a sister festival in Italy). So for us, the village fêtes here are, shall we say, a change of pace.
Herewith, a primer. At a French village fête there will always be:
1. A meal, with wine. Keep expectations low.
2. Speeches. Usually long and delivered with a cheap microphone so they are completely unintelligible. Avoid this segment of the program at all costs.
3. Music, (the quality varies wildly), and dancing.
4. Games for the kids.
5. Someone in a costume of some sort.
6. Something incredibly hokey.
7. Une animation, which is some form of entertainment. Sometimes surprisingly creative; otherwise, see #6.
And so it was our village had a big fête this week, and a great time was had by all. The excuse for the party: it was the 40th anniversary of our Foyer Rurale (village social committee). Time to go all out.
The theme: it was suggested that all participants and attendees wear black and white, for no apparent reason other than to provide costume opportunities. The speeches: short and sweet, yea! The music: the classic French accordionist, who was very good; accompanied, regrettably, by a female singer who definitely should not quit her day job. The food: picnic lunch under the tents. The entertainment: first there was a parade by everyone in the region who has an ultra-loud, muffler-free motorcycle, all gunning their motors and blowing their horns. This, thankfully, was brief. Then came the parade by the antique car club of Cluny, quite impressive. For extra excitement, there was a little slope to get down into the parade area, and some of the cars couldn’t make it back up.
Ah, but something special: Our commune (the village, and surrounding county) of 300 people has an amazing 14 nationalities, so our Dutch friend Gerard decided the expats should do something to thank the villagers, who have been so welcoming. He and the other expat guys made a display board for each country, and we decorated them, and stationed ourselves there to chat with the merry-makers. Everyone got into the spirit. The English offered cucumber sandwiches and gave away tea bags. At the German booth there were 3 kinds of dark bread to try, with salted butter. The Belgians were dishing up a homemade flower liquer from a silver punchbowl. At the U.S. booth, we offered chocolate chip cookies and southern sweet tea with mint and lemon.
Our village is of course rural and small. As I poured her some iced tea, one French lady tickled me with her comment: “Oh but your village is SO cosmopolitan!” Maybe we’re not so far from Charleston after all.
In the COMMENTS: by email--reader Carmie is looking for a fun cooking school in France, can anyone help? Mille mercis for all the comments, fellow rose lovers, from 2 weeks ago. RE lovely spots in France, Heather of Lost in Arles finds the same rich variety in her area. Mark, thanks for checking in from Paris Insider's Guide. Suzanne has a diet tip, Christine of Pen at the Ready has a salad tip. And Hampton offers up his favorite summer dessert recipe. Connie, see you in September, and Barbara is headed for Burgundy too. PHOTOS: more costumes, and our youngest reveler decked out in black & white.
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