We are the year 1628, 20 years have past since our father of New France; Samuel de Champlain has founded Habitation, our fortified settlement. It’s early morning and the square is bustling with commerce, everyone seems to be going about their daily business. One ship has arrived from Europe thankfully, docking in the harbor, bringing much needed supplies of food, tools and livestock. Fewer ships are docking these days, because the English are preventing them from entering the St-Lawrence sea way, they want us to surrender Habitation. If it weren’t for our trades with our allies the Montagnais and Algonquin, we would have all perished. French immigrants are also on board, new blood for the freshly settled lands. The first Europeen explorer to set foot here was Jacques Cartier, but if it wasn’t for Samuel de Champlains’ determination, this land might not have been developped for another several hundred years. He sought the opportunity that lay here in Canada, fertile land, good timber, pristine natural ressources, allowing many to start anew and create their dreams.
We could easily imagine ourselves walking through the pages of history during this festival.The New France festival takes place each year during the first week of August. Scattered throughout Quebec city’s “Old Town”, you can witness a variety of interactive shows, replicating what a typical day might be in New France in the 15th century. By walking the cobbled streets, you can stop at almost every corner to witness something unique of this time. At one location, some New France townies were harassing the prisoners held in the stocks (anonymous spectators chosen from the crowd), after a short discourse on the reasons for detainment, he enticed the crowd to whipped them for their crimes. What a way to draw a crowd, just like the olden days, public humility was their soap opera drama. I could just imagine the fruits and veggies being thrown by passersby! Amazingly, the actors stayed true to their character eventhough there were times where the audience threw them some difficult curve balls.
Street performers chant folk tunes, encouraging the tourist to join along. The air is filled with joyous celebration, some daring performers spit out fire as we all let out ooo’s of contentment. There was also a staged performance of a pirate versus colonel sergeant, my boys were mesmerized by the dazzling costumes.
Street vendors cry out to potential clients to come try their authentic colonial cuisine and freshly brewed ale. Fortune tellers beckon the curious and the skeptical to have their fortunes told and passing sideshows filled with melancholy and misery, draw the attention to the darker side of this century.
When Samuel de Champlain spent his first winter here, he formed an alliance with two groups of Algonquian-speaking peoples,the Montagnais and the Algonquin as well as the Huron, he helped them fight against their enemy, the Iroquois, this decision meant that the French were continually at war. It continued long after his death in 1635, the feud finally ended when the Iroquois had finally defeated the Huron in 1650. The Native Americans made all the difference in the survival of the first Colonist, whom had never experienced such harsh winters.
There is much to see and experience at this unique event. Bring the children to see tradesmen at work, blacksmith, cobblers, silversmith and swordsmith just to name a few. Be sure not to miss an authentic reenactment of the firing of a canon in the Artillery park by true colonial soldiers, much louder than I anticipated. This outing is a must for families and best of all children under 12 have a free entry while adults and teens must purchase the effigy (metal medallion to be worn around the neck) at 14$ which allows you on the site for the entire week. Get the entire family dressed-up into 17th century fashion (not necessarily New France wear, pirate, Native, Europeen) let your imagination go, the New France comity highly encourages it, and it really puts you into full hands-on spirit. For further information go to the official site athttp://www.nouvellefrance.qc.ca/index.php/fr/