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Le Carnaval Des Compagnons brings French culture and traditions to Main Street, North Bay

'I think Francophones are known for their tradition of getting together with family and friends, and having a good time, listening to music, enjoying good food and having fun. That's a bit of what we want to bring this year with the outdoor activities.' Carnaval chair Mathieu Perron
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The largest French Carnaval outside of Quebec is celebrating its 55th anniversary, and this year organizers of North Bay's Le Carnaval Des Compagnons took the show on the road...to Main Street...in the city's downtown.

There the stage was set for the official opening ceremonies, where Bonhomme Carnaval stole the show. The lighting of a torch signaled the official start to an afternoon of outdoor fun. 

"We did a survey after the last Carnaval to see what the people wanted. One of the things that came up was outdoor activities, " said Mathieu Perron, committee chair. 

"We've got a lumberjack demonstration, ice sculpting, we've got a curling table to promote the World's that are coming here next month, and we've got some traditional games and obviously food. I mean the food is such a big part of our culture as well, and live music, as much as it's cold," laughed Perron.

"I think Francophones are known for their tradition of getting together with family and friends, and having a good time, listening to music, enjoying good food.and just having fun. That's a bit of what we want to bring this year with the outdoor activities, and even if you're not Francophone, everybody can celebrate and enjoy our culture."

Melodie Contant moved to North Bay as a teenager. That was when she was first introduced to Le Carnaval, Now she is creating memories with her two daughters aged five and seven. 

"Our language is important. We want to keep it going and keep the music going and all the good stuff that comes with our culture," said Contant.  

Contant also brought her teenaged niece Genevieve Methot to the opening ceremonies.

"I love music so I look forward to that. And the activities at my school were awesome. I like to celebrate our language," said Methot.  

Carnaval committee member, Lou Gagne says the week-long event continues to be a family affair. 

"We're third and fourth generation in now. I'm a kid of the Carnaval. When the Carnaval started I was three years old. So I've known nothing but the French Carnaval, so we're seeing grandkids and great-grandkids participating."

Another tradition is the unveiling of Bonhomme, whose identity is kept a secret.  

Last Thursday, 23 former Bonhomme's were reunited for a special evening of celebration. On Sunday, February 11th, they will come together again, to reveal the identity of the man or woman who kept everyone guessing this year.    

It all begins at 1 p.m. at North Bay's Memorial Gardens, with singing and dancing by local school children. The band "Hey, Wow" will wrap up Sunday's lineup.  

"All the schools are participating, There are dance numbers and songs and then we're parading our former Bonhomme's onto the Memorial Gardens ice, and we're going to unveil the 2018 Bonhomme," said Gagne.

The guest band, 'Hey, Wow' will wrap up Sunday's lineup.