WHAT: Festival FrancoFun

WHEN: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 1-3

WHERE: Colisee, 190 Birch St., Lewiston

TICKETS: $10 per day, $25 for a three-day pass

MORE INFO: call 689-2000 or visit www.festivalfrancofun.com

Festival FrancoFun kicks off Friday

LEWISTON – An expanded variety of food, more crafters and a bigger dance floor will greet the thousands who attend the three-day Festival FrancoFun beginning on Friday.

And a greater-than-ever portion of the 3-year-old festival will be free.

“I’m just trying to keep up,” said Rita Dube, executive director of the Franco American Heritage Center, which is again running the festival.

On Tuesday, her office was a frenzy of phone calls and questions. They ranged from inquiries on the hours of the Franco breakfast – Saturday and Sunday, beginning at 7 a.m. – to requests to purchase packs of tickets for the Friday night lobster and clambake, a festival first.

“Without the volunteers I couldn’t do it,” said Dube. In all, about 130 people are working without pay.

All seem confident that thousands will return.

One draw is last year’s biggest hit, the Moon Dawgs, a group of 50- and 60-something musicians who were regional stars when the Beatles were still alive and playing together.

When the band took the stage last August, festival-goers quickly overwhelmed the Colisee dance floor. Demand was so high that this year’s festival will sport a bigger dance floor.

“It’s like we never really left,” drummer Bob Roy said this week. He and the other five members have been rehearsing a combination of their familiar songs like “Runaround Sue” and “Under the Boardwalk.” They have also added some Frankie Valli songs that are undergoing a resurgence with the musical “Jersey Boys.”

“It’s exciting to play in front of a big group like this,” Roy said, predicting an even bigger crowd than last year. He and Dube said they have been trying to spread the word that the Colisee is air-conditioned, since they had heard some people stayed away last year to avoid the summer heat.

Of course, the dancers may create some heat of their own.

“We usually keep them on their feet,” Roy said. “They sometimes don’t take a break until we do.”

The festival will officially kick off on Friday with an opening ceremony, including a color guard and the singing of the French, Canadian and U.S. national anthems.

Then, Le Grand Dérangement will take the stage. The musicians and dancers, well-known across Canada, filled the Franco-American Heritage Center for a show last year.

The Nova Scotia performers fuse traditional Acadian music, rock, jazz and Louisiana and Irish rhythms. Also featured are two-step dancers reminiscent of Riverdance.

Their performance will be followed by the C’est Si Bon Band, a traditional Franco group that has been playing at Lewiston festivals for decades.

Among the other acts scheduled to perform are the Don Roy Trio, Josee Vachon, Denis Cote and La Famille Arseneault.

The music will all require a paid admission. However, on each of the three days, French-language films will be shown for free at the Colisee.

On Saturday, a health expo hosted by St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, Central Maine Medical Center and Healthy Maine will be held in the Shipyard Lounge above the main concession area of the Colisee. The expo will provide a variety of testing services, including blood pressure, heart rate and height/weight tests. It will also will feature health discussions by Dr. Michael Lemieux.

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