A celebration of culture
Haiti En Fete comes to Petrie
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.