LEWISTON — The La Rencontre on Thursday, Nov. 14, will offer something traditional and something new as its annual Thanksgiving luncheon will be followed by entertainment from singer Joni Larlee, who will be making her debut on the Franco Center stage.

November usually sees the highest attendance of the year or close to it for the monthly luncheon, mainly because of the menu. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans and dinner rolls will be served, topped off with a pumpkin square for dessert. The cost for the meal and the entertainment that follows is $7, a price that has remained unchanged for several years.

Everyone is invited to attend La Rencontre, although reservations must be made before Monday, Nov. 11, at 4 p.m. in order for the Franco Center to order an appropriate amount of food. Reservations should be made by phone by calling box office manager Kirsten Nunery between noon and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Larlee, who will perform songs in both French and English, comes to Lewiston after a long and circuitous journey following her birth in Edmundston, New Brunswick, a town separated only by a bridge from Madawaska and the rest of the United States.

As a young girl, her family moved to southern Maine and she went on to graduate from St. Joseph’s Academy in South Berwick. Later she met a man in the Air Force stationed at Brunswick Naval Air Station and not long after the two were married, he was assigned to a base near Chicago.

While working as a cocktail waitress in Chicago, she casually mentioned to a talent agent that she could sing in French, a talent that was a bit more novel in Illinois than it was back home in Maine. It was a niche that served her well, and Larlee went on to perform songs by Edith Piaf and others not just in cabaret-style nightclubs but also at receptions at the French consulate in Chicago.

She returned to Maine and settled in Lisbon not long ago and heard about the Franco Center, which did not exist when she left the state. Recently she dropped by the Franco Center to drop off one of her CDs, which resulted in her being asked to perform at the next La Rencontre.


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