AUGUSTA – The fourth annual Franco-American Day at the State House is Wednesday, but it won’t include the usual large participation from Lewiston-Auburn Francos, who make up the greatest concentration of Mainers of French-Canadian descent.

It appears that this year’s organizers, Rep. Ross Paradis, D-Frenchville, and his wife, former Sen. Judy Paradis, were not able to get the word out far enough in advance. Local legislators expressed disappointment Monday, saying they found out less than two weeks before the event.

That meant there wasn’t time to schedule the usual bus to bring up Lewiston-Auburn Francos, who enjoy hearing French spoken and celebrated in the State House. Or to schedule Lewiston-Auburn musicians, singers and dancers, who have provided Franco music and dance in the halls of the Capitol. Or to organize local French-class students to come to hear French spoken in the House and Senate chambers.

Paradis said he simply ran out of time to include others in the planning and to share information. Late calls were going out inviting Lewiston-Auburn Francos. “There should be a press release going out tomorrow,” Paradis said Monday.

There was never any intention to leave out Lewiston-Auburn, or other places in Maine with Francos, Paradis said. “That’s just the way it happened. We’ve been caught up in all kinds of stuff.”

Paradis and his wife founded Franco day four years ago, Paradis said, and the day has been the product of the State House Franco American Caucus. But this year Paradis did not call the caucus together, he said.

The day, however, will involve more than those from Aroostook County, Paradis said. In addition to students coming from Gray, Belfast and Augusta, he said there’ll be two exhibits prepared by Donat Boisvert of the Franco American Collection at Lewiston-Auburn College. One will be of Saints Peter and Paul being named a basilica, the other will feature the late Sen. Georgette Berube of Lewiston.

Also, Lewiston Mayor Lionel Guay will be inducted into the Franco-American Hall of Fame, Paradis said.

Sen. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, was one of several area lawmakers frustrated with the short notice; in the past, lawmakers were notified weeks in advance.

“There was not time to get the word out to people in Lewiston. … I’m enormously disappointed,” she said. “There’s always been an invitation extended to any legislator who wanted to participate,” which allowed time to contact constituents.

Aliette Couturier of Lewiston, president of La Survivance Francaise, is one of Rotundo’s constituents. La Survivance members in the past have participated in Franco day, arriving at the State House in a chartered bus. There wasn’t time to schedule a bus this year, Couturier said.

Nor was there time for her musical group, The Silver Tones, to perform. “Usually as people come in; we play gigs and sing songs. I don’t know who’s performing this year.”

Couturier wasn’t feeling snubbed, however. She’ll be at the State House on Wednesday.

“My husband and I are bringing up another couple,” and at tonight’s La Survivance Francaise meeting she’ll encourage members to go.

Late notice or not, “we’re so fortunate to have that day,” Couturier said. “To be in the Capitol building and hear French, French music. … I’ll join in on whatever’s going on.”

Rotundo said she hopes that next year the word gets out earlier to legislators “so those of us who have constituents who want to come up and participate or perform can be here.”


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