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Local News

French Connections Fuel Festival’s Celebration of Culture, History

Locals commemorate French independence with 25th annual event at Oak Park

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Those proudly donning the tricolors of blue, white and red Sunday at Santa Barbara’s Oak Park gathered to celebrate the independence and history of a homeland that is not highlighted on the Fourth of July.

Hundreds of revelers commemorated the beginning of the French Revolution during the 25th annual Santa Barbara French Festival. The free, two-day event, which began Saturday and ended Sunday, coincided with the French national holiday, Bastille Day, celebrated each July 14.

French fare, wine, croissants, crepes, music and dancing were among event highlights, provided by more than 30 performing acts on three stages.

This year’s festivities marked the second year since local nonprofits Center Stage Theatre and Speaking of Stories took over organizing the event.

Philippe Lerond and his 9-month-old, beret-wearing daughter, Amelie, stopped to pose in front of a miniature, painted Eiffel Tower on Sunday.

Lerond said that for the past three years his family has driven up from Los Angeles to attend the Santa Barbara event and celebrate their heritage.

“It’s a great experience,” he said. “Bastille Day is definitely a big day.”

He carried fresh flowers from one of more than 50 booths at the festival pedaling hats, jewelry, colorful feathers and more. Others sold artwork of the Eiffel Tower and other notable French landmarks.

Ann and Alberto Ortiz of Goleta brought their 14-year-old poodle, Poochy, to participate in the festival’s infamous Poodle Parade on Sunday — her first go at the march that caps off the weekend event.

The nonprofit Guilde of Sainte Marie provided actors in French dress, specializing in 16th-century historical reenactment in an attempt to teach about French and Renaissance history.

John Bloom as “King Henri III,” the organization president, said his group has frequented the festival four years to perform and educate. They wrote a special masquerade for the event’s 25th anniversary.

“It is very busy,” he said. “We are very pleased. It gives us an opportunity to teach a little bit about who we are.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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