Frenchtown uncorks event to fete heritage

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WALLA WALLA — Parlez-vous festival?

If so, there will be plenty to see and talk about on Saturday at the St. Jean-Baptiste Day celebration to pay tribute to Walla Walla’s French Canadian heritage.

Celebration schedule

3:30 p.m. — Driving tour of Frenchtown historic cabins. Participants meet at The Frenchtown Historical Site on Old Highway 12 two miles west of the Whitman Mission.

5 p.m. — Dedication of the Interpretative Shelter at Frenchtown Historic Site.

5:30 p.m. — St. Jean-Baptiste Day celebration at Three Rivers Winery. Admission is $10, benefitting the upkeep of the Frenchtown Historic Site.

The Frenchtown Historic Site is open daily from dawn to dusk. Admission is free. For more information concerning the Frenchtown Historic Site visit: www.frenchtownpar...>

The Frenchtown Historical Foundation and Three Rivers Winery will host the event, to take place at the winery and at the Frenchtown Historical Site.

At the site, events include a tour of historic log cabins and the dedication of the new Frenchtown Interpretive Shelter, which will house gatherings and displays.

After the dedication, Three Rivers Winery will hold St. Jean-Baptiste Day festivities with dancing, music, wine and food.

The history of Walla Walla’s Frenchtown goes back all the way to the area’s fur trade and missionary days of white settlement.

Frenchtown was established in the late 1830’s following the arrival of missionaries Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and Hudson’s Bay Company trappers, according to history from frenchtownpartners.org.

Frenchtown was not only the home of a successful fur trade, uniting French Canadians and local tribes but, it also gave rise to peaceful cohabitation.

Frenchtown was a collection of log homes scattered over 50 square miles along the Walla Walla River.

The homes were inhabited primarily by Cayuse and Walla Walla, and French Canadian Metís, who were mixed people of both tribal and French Canadian birth.

The governing body of Frenchtown further reflected the successful cohabitation, with the town governed by tribe members instead of the nearby missionaries.

At Saturday’s event, The Frenchtown Historical Foundation will lead tours of the more than 150-year-old cabins and portions of the town area that still stand today.

St. Jean-Baptiste Day — also known as St. John the Baptist Day —is a national holiday in Quebec, Canada, celebrating French Canadian culture.

French colonists brought the holiday to Canada and initially observed it as a religious feast day, also called Midsummer.

Quebec holds festivities annually on June 24 with parades, fireworks, bonfires, contests and patriotic speeches.

Participants also drink, ring bells, wave flags, attend concerts and dress in blue and white, the traditional colors of Quebec.

The Frenchtown Historical Foundation and Three Rivers Winery St. Jean-Baptiste Day celebration may not have parades and patriotic speeches but, there will be music, drinking and maybe even people adorned in white and blue who speak French.

Evelyn Levine can be reached at evelynlevine@wwub.com or 509-526-8323.

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