A cel­e­bra­tion of cul­ture

Haiti En Fete comes to Petrie

Orleans Star - - LOCAL NEWS - Laura Cum­mings

Petrie Is­land will be awash in the mu­sic, food and cul­ture of Haiti through­out this week­end, as the third-an­nual Haiti En Fete comes to the east-end beach.

The fes­ti­val – which runs Fri­day, July 17 to Sun­day, July 19 – is organized by non-profit Kom­bite Ou­taouais, formed by a group of east Ottawa friends of Haitian de­scent, ex­plains fes­ti­val spokesper­son Rachel Decoste, who de­cided to host the fes­ti­val to “cel­e­brate the mul­ti­cul­tural as­pect cer­tain peo­ple bring to the city,” re­fer­ring to Ottawa’s“siz­able”Haitian pop­u­la­tion since the 1950s.

The pur­pose of the an­nual event is two-fold, she con­tin­ues, both to show­case the cul­ture for oth­ers across the city as well as com­mem­o­rate their own achieve­ments.

“There are many things we’ve ac­com­plished that we need to cel­e­brate,” Decoste says, point­ing to Michaelle Jean’s ap­point­ment as gov­er­nor gen­eral as one. “It’s to cel­e­brate our­selves.”

Se­lect­ing Petrie Is­land as a lo­ca­tion “close to home” for the east-end group, the first year of Haiti En Fete was rel­a­tively small, she re­counts.

But through word of mouth and pos­i­tive re­views, by the sec­ond edi­tion the fes­ti­val’s at­ten­dance grew 300 per cent, Decoste ex­plains, es­ti­mat­ing the num­bers be­tween 2,000 and 2,500 last year.

“This year we’re pre­par­ing for big num­bers,” she con­tin­ues with a laugh, not­ing the fes­ti­val now stretches from its orig­i­nal one-day for­mat to a three-day event. “The first time it was wellor­ga­nized; the peo­ple who did go told their friends.”

Also en­cour­ag­ing growth is the event’s new web­site, Decoste sug­gests, which has reg­is­tered reg­u­lar hits from as far away as Wind­sor, Ont. and the sup­port of larger spon­sors like Cana­dian Her­itage.

“It’s helped spread the word,” she adds. “(It’s im­por­tant) be­cause kids have grown up in Ottawa some­times not very knowl­edge­able about their her­itage and how rich it is. This is an op­por­tu­nity to cel­e­brate that.”

Even with its size rapidly grow­ing,Haiti En Fete is still very much a fam­ily-ori­ented event, Decoste stresses, in­clud­ing sports, games, food and mu­si­cal en­ter­tain­ment from lo­cal and out­side groups.

And with so much de­vel­op­ment on the cusp in Or­léans – in­clud­ing the new Shenkman Arts Cen­tre and the up­com­ing ho­tel on St. Joseph Boule­vard – pro­mot­ing the east end’s cul­tural as­pects will help pro­mote area tourism, con­tin­ues Qa­mar Ma­sood, pres­i­dent of the Mul­ti­cul­tural As­so­ci­a­tion of Or­léans.

“We want to bring more tourism dol­lars in Or­léans,” he says, also point­ing to Petrie Is­land as “one of the best beaches on the Ottawa River” and a prime lo­ca­tion for sim­i­lar events.

Fes­ti­vals rep­re­sent­ing any cul­tural group are valu­able be­cause they show­case “the mo­saic of our so­ci­ety” in the east end, Ma­sood sug­gests.

“It’s very good en­cour­age­ment, es­pe­cially in Or­léans,” he ex­plains, point­ing to the need to high­light all area cul­tural com­mu­ni­ties. “It’s a strength to show how ver­sa­tile we are. Other (cul­tural groups) have not been very ac­tive in show­ing their pres­ence here, so this is a good sign.”

Decoste echoes the same, stress­ing the value of en­sur­ing each com­mu­nity is well-rep­re­sented.

“Canada is proud of its di­ver­sity and the mo­saic that dif­fer­en­ti­ates us from (the United States),” she says. “For that mo­saic to be beau­ti­ful, ev­ery (piece) has to shine brightly.”

For more i n f o rmati o n , pleas e v i s i t www.HaitiEnFete.ca.

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