The 20th anniversary will look to the future
In a city and state where we seem to have a festival for just about everything, it makes sense that there would be one dedicated to our French Heritage. The “Fête Française,” hosted by the Ecole Bilingue de la Nouvelle Orléans is marking 20 years of hosting the original event that celebrates French culture and heritage in New Orleans.
The fête will take place March 23, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at the school’s main campus on General Pershing Street just off Magazine (appropriately near La Petite Grocery). While the fête often boasts a wide array of musical acts, food vendors and kid’s events, this year’s milestone marks a bigger fête that’s helping them make way for a bigger school.
This year’s theme is “Tour de France” and, like the famous bicycle race, the festival site will be divided into different sections that all represent a different region of France, according to Robyn Cook, Director of Advancement at Ecole Bilingue.
The kid’s area will feature a lot of carnival games ranging from spin art to a balloon pop prize reveal. Not only are there plenty of activities for both younger and older children, the students at the school run most of these events (with parental help), which makes the entire event feel less like a commercial festival and more a neighborhood block party. Face painting and kids dancing to music while they admire macarons and pastries are a common sight at this family-friendly event.
While the fête does have more of a neighborhood feel than your average festival, that doesn’t mean it’s just another school fair. Meanwhile, given they’re in their 20th year, they have also booked two Grammy-nominated headliners for their two musical stages. Ch-wa and Michot’s Melody Makers (a spinoff of the Lost Bayou Ramblers) will lead the way for other acts during the day, including Panorama Jazz Band, Bon Bon Vivant and The Tin Men.
For the parents attending the fête, new this year will be a VIP tent that will have a wine and cheese tasting that highlights the various and diverse regions of France. While participants will not be transported by bicycle per se – following the theme – they’ll get to travel metaphorically around France via its two most beloved exports.
While there’s a complete list of food vendors on their website, the majority of New Orleanians make a stop by the fête for one thing only: the moules frites. Les Deux Papas, a dad-duo that began when the fête was a much smaller affair near Audubon Park, will undoubtedly be back with their famous mussels steamed in white wine and French fries. This booth often has the longest lines, but just about everyone will tell you it’s worth the wait as their name, “the two fathers,” means they’re just that: two dads helping out their kids’ school at this event only. If you want moules, you have to go to the fête.
While the “Fête Française” has been a fairly major event the in New Orleans Spring festival lineup, this year’s event marks a growth not just for the event, but for the school as well.
“Our school has really grown in the last couple of years. We have more than 300 students now and just acquired a property on Magazine Street to expand our campus and build an Arts and Athletic Center. It’s a great time for us and for the fête,” said Cook.
Just the Facts …
March 23, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
821 General Pershing St.
Admission is free and tickets will be sold for games, food and drink.