French Festival starts today

The Eiffel Tower is assembled at Oak Park for this weekend's French Festival.
The Eiffel Tower is assembled at Oak Park for this weekend’s French Festival.

Dust off your beret and prep your poodle, because the French Festival starts today at Oak Park for two days celebrating the world of French culture.

The popular event, now in its 26th year, features food, drink, dancing, music and fun for the whole family, whether you come from a French background or just love the romance of Paris, or the taste of a good croissant.

Started by Steve Hoegerman and run for the last four years by Center Stage Theater’s Teri Ball and Nathan Quinney, the park is turned into a mini-Paris, with a scaled-down version of the Eiffel Tower to greet visitors.

But it’s not just France that is celebrated – it’s any place with a French cultural history, such as Vietnam, Polynesia and New Orleans.

At the park’s main stage, visitors can see the can-can, Polynesian dancers and the tango, along with a drag review by the Femme Fatales.

There’s plenty of singing and music at the other stage, including Jessica Fichot singing chanson, the French Johnny Cash impersonator J.R. Black, Jean-Pierre and Ariana Tibi singing Edith Piaf, Charles Aznavour and Yves Montand, Cajun musicians Second Wind, Djangoschmango, and accordion music all day long all over the park.

For food, it’s everything one thinks of when French food is mentioned – baguettes, cheese, quiche, crepes – but so much more, like madelines, Cajun food, Vietnamese noodles, escargot, Merguez sausage, and “Le Hot Dog,” a French twist on an American favorite.

If all the talk of Paris and wine country trigger wanderlust, then the Santa Barbara Travel pavilion offers plenty of information.

Steve Hoegerman, when he isn’t emceeing the stage events, also offers a tour in Provence, and a raffle offers prizes of a French Polynesian resort vacation, along with a round-trip flight to Paris.

The French Festival runs 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and Sunday.

For more information and a full schedule, go to http://www.frenchfestival.com/ or call 963-8198.

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