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Island's French-American School celebrates 222nd Bastille Day

By Alicia Halberg

Special to the Reporter

Beautiful weather and greetings of “bonjour” filled the Fisher Pavilion and lawn at Seattle Center this past weekend for France Education Northwest’s annual Bastille Day festival.

Booths around the pavilion included authentic French food and wine as well as Mercer Island’s own French American School of Puget Sound.

“It’s the perfect day to celebrate the French Revolution,” said Anne Derieux, the FASPS director of advancement, referring to the sunshine. The weather was better than predicted for the weekend’s festivities.

The school, one of only two French-American schools certified by the French Ministry of Education in the Seattle area, serves over 370 students from age 3 through eighth grade, including many islanders. The other school, in Bellevue, only goes through fifth grade.

“We have over 40 nationalities [at the school]” said Derieux. “Mercer Island is very diverse. … Many of our alumni attend Mercer Island High School.”

Former islanders Jennifer and Jean-Remy Facq continue to send their two children to school at FASPS even though they no longer live there.

“We’ve been there for about three years now and their French is beautiful,” said Jennifer Facq. She raved about the school’s tight-knit community, which mandates that all parents must volunteer for at least 20 hours per year at the school.

“Everybody is very involved, many are French but some aren’t at all, but [the language] is something we all have in common, I really enjoy it.”

The school is a member of the Mercer Island Chamber of Commerce. They work often with the Jewish Community Center just across the street and enjoy holding picnics at Luther Burbank Park on the north of the island.

Although the actual Bastille Day isn’t until July 14, the festival commenced a week of celebrations for Seattle’s Alliance Française, a group dedicated to promoting French culture and language in Seattle.

“We’re holding a jardin party on 14 Julliet,” said Charlotte Gueriaux, a volunteer with the Alliance, mixing her French and English. Gueriaux came to Seattle from Orléans and has only been in the States for one month.

Stacy Sisson, after introducing another local French chef up for a demonstration on stage, said that this was the largest event that the French American Chamber of Commerce of the Pacific Northwest has held.

“This is the first time we’ve had two days to celebrate,” said Sisson, a longtime volunteer with the group. In the past, the festival has just lasted one day. “We hope it will only grow larger!”

July 14, 2011 marks the 222nd anniversary of the storming of the Bastille Fortress, the end of France’s monarchy and the beginning of the French Revolution.

As Francophiles around the world come together this week to celebrate “liberté” (liberty) égalité (equality) and fraternité (brotherhood), the motto of the French Revolution, Seattleites embraced French culture through food, music and culture.

“I like watching the cooking,” said Elsa Luthi, whose mother runs the Canoe Island French Camp in the San Juan Islands.

Cooking demonstrations and French cuisine were a large part of the celebration, which featured two separate wine gardens, or, rather jardins du vin. Guests could buy traditional French food including “le Parisian,” a sandwich composed of ham and cheese on baguette, or a sample plate of three French cheeses.

Everyone’s favorite on the hot day was a scoop of “glace du vanil avec fraises,” vanilla ice cream with a strawberry purée and French pastry.

Although many came donned in their best bleu (blue) blanc (white) and rouge (red), the colors of the French flag, some stumbled upon the festival accidentally, like Mike White of Queen Anne and his toddler son.

“There’s sunshine, music, wine and food, what’s not to like?” said White.

For more information about Bastille festivities this Thursday, visit the Alliance Francaise website at www.afseattle.org. For more about the French-American School of Puget Sound visit www.fasps.org.

(ALICIA A. HALBERG is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.)

 

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