News Column

Parade performances delight crowds at French Festival in Cape Vincent

July 13, 2014

By Ted Booker, Watertown Daily Times, N.Y.

July 13--CAPE VINCENT -- Performances of bands on Broadway Street during the finale of the village's French Festival parade Saturday afternoon gave hundreds of spectators motivation to clap.

The Heuvelton Central School marching band, dressed in purple and gold attire, put on a performance that triggered the crowd to go into a thunderous roar during the 46th annual festival, which will continue today. Heuvelton was among about a dozen bands that gave special performances during the "battle of the bands" segment of the parade,which is not judged.

A lineup of 41 parade units was also featured, including groups dressed in French and Colonial attire who played bagpipes and drums.

Leading the parade was a short man, riding a horse, who was dressed as French commander Napoleon Bonaparte. The time-honored tradition pays tribute to the arrival of French families to the north country who immigrated during the early 19th century.

The Heuvelton band kicked off its special performance by singing to the crowd: "You're so fine, you blow my mind, hey Mickey, hey Mickey!"

As the band moved to the song in different formations, drum major Derek A. Fenton amazed the crowd by tossing his baton about 15 feet in the air, then catching it deftly without missing a beat. The band then transitioned from "Hey, Mickey" to the classic song "867-5309" -- keeping the crowd's attention riveted.

Band members finished the performance by saluting to the crowd -- a gesture that spurred boisterous applause.

Among those cheering for the band were Lyle J. and Stacey A. LaRose of Heuvelton and their 19-year-old daughter, Alicia M., a former member of the band who graduated last year.

Mr. LaRose, wearing sunglasses and a tank top, continued to cheer loudly for almost a minute after the band finished its performance. He said he looks forward to watching local bands perform during the French Festival.

"Usually in parades it's hard to see the bands play because they're moving, whereas with the battle of the bands, you get to see it all," he said.

Miss LaRose, previously a flag twirler for the Heuvelton band, said that during her freshman year the group performed a song by Michael Jackson at the festival that wowed the crowd. She contended the performance still hasn't been topped.

"That was an amazing performance, because the whole crowd knew we were going to dance in the street like Michael Jackson," she said.

Mr. Fenton, the Heuvelton drum major, graduated from the district this summer and is to attend SUNY Canton in the fall. He said he enjoys performing in the Cape Vincent festival more than in competitions in which bands are judged.

"This one has a lot of importance, but we're only here to perform and don't have the pressure of being judged," he said.

The festival is akin to a reunion for extended families with roots in the Thousand Islands region, said Kelly M. and Perry J. Hyde of Chaumont. Joining Mr. Hyde on a cluster of lawn chairs on Lake Street to watch the parade were his three sisters: Ann L. DeJourdan of Cape Vincent, Jane C. Wallace of Long Island and Gail M. Thomas of Taylor, Pa. The four siblings, who grew up in Three Mile Bay, all recalled marching in the French Festival parade as members of the Lyme Central School marching band.

Mrs. Hyde, a Cape Vincent native and 1984 graduate of Thousand Islands Central School, recalled playing the flute in the band during the parade as a student. Along with visiting with the group of relatives on her husband's side of the family, she said that her extended family of "probably 100 people" from Cape Vincent attended the parade.

"All of my side of the family comes home for the weekend," she said. "I'm sitting here with his side of the family now, and then after the parade we'll go over and visit with my side."

Mrs. Hyde said her great-grandfather immigrated to Canada from France. She said her grandfather was born on Carleton Island on the St. Lawrence River. The historical flavor of the parade is a reminder of her family's roots, she said.

"I like the bagpipes and everything that's French or Canadian," she said.

Andrew K. and Lisa S. Rudd, seasonal residents of Chaumont who live in Florida during the winter, also enjoy signs of French culture exhibited in the parade, they said. Mrs. Rudd, who was clapping and dancing to the music of bands, said her great-grandfather immigrated from France to the Canadian province of Quebec. Her grandmother then moved from Canada to Northern New York. She said the festival gives her a chance to display pride in her French ancestry.

"We've been coming up here for years for the parade," she said.

Though Mr. Rudd doesn't have any French blood, he said he enjoys tagging along. "I like French-onion dip and champagne," he said, with a laugh.

The French Festival Committee hosted the event.


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Source: Watertown Daily Times (NY)

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