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Le Carnaval celebrates 56 years of traditions in North Bay

'We like being involved. We’re a French speaking family. It is our first language. And I do think it is important for all my kids to come here and it gives a big family feeling' Melanie Levasseur.  

Daniel St-Onge proudly stands beside the “crazy skis” he made for the outdoor activities celebrating the 56th year of Le Carnaval in North Bay.

A section of Main Street was blocked off Saturday for a number of events from the lumberjack show to a magician, horse-drawn carriage rides and maple taffy on sticks.

St-Onge and his skis, which are long enough for four people to walk on, have a long history with the French carnival.

“It was something I came up with at the first Carnaval with my dad when I was just 12 years old. Last year we tried it again, and I made these last night for today. They’re just plywood and old seat belts. Nothing special,” he laughed.

“I don’t remember where I first saw them, but I talked to Henri Menard, the principal at Ecole St. Paul, about making them and he said ‘Good. Do it.” So my father and I made them in his shop, and the rest is history, but I honestly don’t know where I got the idea. I love to watch people having fun on them.”

The Levasseur family gave the skis a try.  

“We like being involved. We’re a French-speaking family, it is our first language. And I do think it is important for all my kids to come here and it gives a big family feeling,” said Melanie Levasseur.  

Patrick Theoret and Claude Cloutier, both members of the Richelieu Club of North Bay, were busy keeping up with the demand for maple taffy on a stick.

Cloutier enjoys the family atmosphere.

“I like seeing all the kids so happy to be doing different things like the taffy, and riding on the wagon. For them, it is so great. I have lots of good memories.”

Theoret says it is important to keep the tradition going.

“It is a celebration of our French culture. We’re multicultural in our city, so it is nice to have this every year to remind people how exciting it can be to be part of all of that.”  

Ten-year-old Emma Furrow tried her hand at mastering the old fashioned snowshoes, as she makes her own memories.

“I enjoyed the school dances, and I enjoy spending time outside with my family,” said Furrow.

“We’ve tried to incorporate a lot of the elements of the Francophone culture. We’ve got the music, the family games, and a lot of us have our sashes on,” said Anne Brule, event organizer.

“The sash was used by explorers in various ways. One of the theories is when the voyageurs would come into a town, they all looked the same, so they developed this really colourful sash so they could impress the ladies to get them to go out with them. But there is a lot of practical uses for the sash as well, for climbing trees, as a back brace. It was a multi-use tool for the voyageur.”    

The highlight at Sunday’s closing ceremonies at the Capitol Centre, is the revealing of this year’s Bonhomme.

“Being Bonhomme is an honour that we bestow on a member of our community, who we hold in high regard. Every year we try and guess who that person is that is being honoured,” said Brule.

“Last year we did a gathering of Bonhommes from the beginning. Out of 55, we had close to 30 show up, some are no longer in this area or have passed away. But we do anticipate quite a number of them will be in the crowd.”

The celebration continues for the remainder of the month with special artwork on display at the WKP Kennedy Art Gallery at the Capitol Centre.