The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Rain doesn’t spoil ‘Burg’s Bastille Day party
BY LINDLEY ESTES
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
One of the covered shelters at Old Mill Park did not look very different on Saturday than it did for the Fourth of July.
Partygoers were decked out in red, white and blue. But instead of the United States’ national anthem, they sang France’s, “La Marseillaise,” and chanted “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.”
The Fredericksburg Sister City Association sponsored the local celebration of Bastille Day, the French national holiday. Members of the organization mingled with newly arrived exchange students from Fredericksburg’s sister city, Fréjus.
They did so during a thunderstorm and flood warning, which members said had never happened in the 32 years they’ve celebrated Bastille Day in Fredericksburg.
The shelter hardly had walking room with everyone pressed in out of the weather, eating a mixture of French and American cuisine and playing trivia games to see how much they knew about the holiday.
“We just have to sing a little louder over the thunder,” said organization President Cathy Herndon.
The party marked not only the holiday, but also the 16th year of the student exchange program.
Steve and Laura Morrison were among the host families present.
“[The party] is very good. But the weather, it is not that good,” said the French student they are hosting, Heloise.
Steve added, “She’s never heard thunder that loud before.”
Next year, their daughter Aurora will go to Fréjus with the exchange program.
“She wants to be a chef and study in France,” said Steve. “She’s always cooking, making soufflés and profiteroles.”
Heloise used GoogleEarth to show the Morrisons where she lives and where Aurora will stay next year.
“It’s beautiful,” they said. “We got to see the front and the olive trees in the garden. It’s like it wasn’t actually that far away.”
The two girls lit sparklers, which replaced the traditional fireworks but did not last long in the rain.
Marc Guillen, a chaperone from Fréjus, said that he appreciated everything done for them in Fredericksburg.
If he hadn’t been escorting French students to Fredericksburg on Saturday, Guillen said he would have been “sitting on the beach having a picnic and a glass of wine, waiting for fireworks. In Fréjus the fireworks are from the sea, so everyone is on the beach. It is really beautiful.”
A longtime member of the Sister City program, Don Colt, said the party represents cooperation and communication for him.
“I got a lot more than I bargained for when I signed up for this,” he said. “There’s a sense of camaraderie.”
A few years ago, he and his wife hosted two women from Fréjus.
“We didn’t speak French, and the two women did not speak much English,” he said. “But there was no doubt that in the spirit of friendship you can get along and understand each other.”
Paola Barral, owner of Cose Belle Boutique, which opened in downtown Fredericksburg Saturday, said she was happy to have a place to celebrate Bastille Day.
“I am Italian and have French heritage,” she said. “My grandmother was from Paris, and I was born on the French border.”
Suzanne Garner, a French teacher at two Spotsylvania County middle schools, has been involved with the Sister City organization for five years and said that the Bastille Day party is a perfect way to celebrate her own French heritage.
Garner says she is a walking example of cooperation between the two countries because her mother was French, and her father was American.
Lydie and Tom Mann, who are some of the founding members of the Fredericksburg program, also represent that cooperation.
She is Parisian, and he is American. They met while he was teaching English in Paris.
“It was 48 years ago. I was traveling by bike around Europe and ended up in Paris. I was teaching English, and she taught me French. Apparently the Americans and the French can get together,” Tom Mann said.
“Even if the climate seems stormy,” someone nearby added.
Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976