A reason to celebrate

Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald La Raquette à claquettes performs at Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day celebrations Saturday. The the national holiday of Quebec is a time to celebrate French culture.

It was a pastoral scene straight out of rural French Canada.

A few dozen people, piled into a tent in front of an old, wooden store on a ranch just north of Prince Albert, laughing and joking en Français with the sound of fiddle, banjo, accordion, foot stomping and wooden spoons setting the mood.

It was a time of celebration. For the Fransaskois, and for francophones across Canada, one of the biggest days of the year — Saint-Jean-Baptise Day, the national holiday of Quebec.

“It originally was a religious celebration for French Canadian Catholics, now it’s evolved over the years into more of a cultural expression of ourselves, our language and our music,” said Michel Dubé, the president of the Société canadienne-française de Prince Albert (SCFPA)

“It’s just a good excuse to get together, It’ a national day of recognition for French Canadians, including the Fransaskois here. That’s what it is — a good reason to celebrate, the solstice has just arrived and it’s the beginning of the summer.”

Dubé, a retired bison rancher, hosted the event on his property, at the former White Star Trading Post. He invited Regina’s La Raquette à claquettes, a Fransaskois folk act, to perform at the celebrations.

They brought a fiddle-driven folk flair to the festivities, singing and joking in true Saskatchewan fashion, about beer, John Deere, and everything in between.

The event was smaller than it has been in previous years, but Dubé said it’s about why they’re celebrating more than about how many could make it.

“People are here for the right reasons,” he said.

“Afterwards, we’ll keep on celebrating around a bonfire, maybe cook some sausages.”

This year’s festivities continued into Sunday morning, with a brunch planned for members of the Fransaskois community and guests.

“French speakers, Francophiles, those who want to learn and practice French, they’re more than welcome too.”

The celebration comes as the SCFPA continues to grow its numbers. Boosted by newcomers from French-speaking African nations, some Columbian residents who speak French and even a resident or two from France itself.

”We’re trying to increase our activities, and the variety of activities, so we can try to satisfy as much as we can of what people want to do and have fun,” Dubé said.

But Saturday was just about the moment.

“Today is a day to celebrate,” Dubé said.

“To have some music and get us dancing.”