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Vancouver’s Festival du Bois Francophone Festival in Coquitlam

Festival Voyageurs in Costume

Featuring a weekend of French Canadian music, food and festivities in Coquitlam, the Festival du Bois is Metro Vancouver’s premier Francophone festival.

 

Festival du Bois in 2021

The 2021 Festival du Bois takes place between April 16th and April 30th. Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, no in-person events are taking place during this year’s festival. Instead, all performances are available online for free.

The festival takes place every day during the last two weeks of April this year. There aren’t set times to see the performances and enjoy the activities. Starting on April 16th you can visit the Festival du Bois website at any time to enjoy the French Canadian online experience.

 

Festival Du Bois in 2021

 

2021 Performers

Below is a list of the bands and musicians performing during the virtual event in 2021. For a look at what they look like, see the video located right after this list.

  • Florent Vollant – a JUNO Award-winning Innu Folk-Country musician from Quebec. He is also one part of the musical duo Kashtin which is a First Nations Folk Rock band.
  • Genticorum – a musical trio from Quebec featuring Yann Falquet (on guitar, mouth harp and vocals), Pascal Gemme (on fiddle, podorythmie and vocals), and Nicholas Williams (on accordion, flute and vocals).
  • Jocelyn Pettit – a well-known local Celtic and Folk fiddler and singer. A BC resident, she plays at numerous events in the Lower Mainland throughout the year.
  • Jocelyne Baribeau – a Folk and Pop-Country singer from Manitoba who won Francophone Artist of the Year at the 2016 Western Canadian Music Awards.
  • Joseph Edgar – an Acadian singer and guitar player from New Brunswick but now living in Montréal.
  • Loig Morin – an Indie musician from France now living in British Columbia.
  • Pierre Schryer & Andy Hillhouse – a BC-based musical duo featuring Schryer on fiddle and Hillhouse on both guitar and vocals. The pair plays a range of tunes including both traditional Irish and Québécois music.
  • Sirène et Matelot – the singing and song-writing Folk and Country duo of Acadian musicians Lennie Gallant and Patricia Richard from Prince Edward Island.
  • Le Winston Band – a group from Quebec that specializes in Zydeco which originated in French Creole Louisiana and features a mix of Blues, R&B and Indigenous music.

In addition to the above, children’s performers in 2021 include the following:

  • Monsieur André – a harmonica and guitar-playing entertainer.
  • Roger Dallaire – a storyteller who also plays multiple musical instruments.
  • Isabelle la Wonderful – a clown from Alberta who is also a magician and stand-up comic. Her shows are in both French and English.
  • Frenchie the Clown – a children’s entertainer from France who has performed live at the Festival du Bois in previous years.

 

2021 Festival Video

The following video features photos of the various performers at the festival in 2021. And further below is a video of what the festival looks like when it happens as a live event at Mackin Park.

* For a list of the performers featured in this video, and for photo credits, see the bottom of this article. The music featured in the video is Turlutte Hirsute by the band Genticorum.

 

 

Coquitlam Francophone Festival in Normal Years

In normal years, the Festival du Bois takes place in Mackin Park in Coquitlam. The venue is a 24-km drive from downtown Vancouver. It’s a great event and British Columbia’s largest francophone festival. It’s a lot of fun!

For an idea of what to expect at the event check out the following short video that we took a couple of years ago. The band playing at the dance in the video is the Sybaritic String Band. The musician performing at the end is Shauit. As you’ll see from this clip, the festival can be a lot of fun.

 

 

When and Where

The Festival du Bois has been occurring in late February or early March since 1989. The 2021 festival is happening as a virtual event due to COVID-19 between April 16th and the 30th.

In years when there isn’t a pandemic, the event happens in Mackin Park, at 1046 Brunette Avenue, just a few blocks from the Coquitlam IKEA store. The park is a 10-minute walk from IKEA and 5 minutes from Canadian Tire. You are actually allowed to park at IKEA during the festival and then take the free shuttle to the venue.

(Note: If parking at IKEA, park on the lower level in section J or K in the southeast corner of the facility. You can then catch the free shuttle (from the west end of IKEA in A section by Wooldridge Street) to and from Mackin Park every 15 minutes or so between 10:30 am and 9:00 pm on the Saturday and from 8:30 am until 5:00 pm on the Sunday.)

 

What to Expect in Normal Years

In years when there isn’t a global pandemic, at the Festival du Bois you’ll find crafts and other activities for children, French Canadian foods for sale, information tables from various organizations, and a variety of great musical performances throughout the weekend.

Popular foods for sale include, as one might expect, poutine, crepes and traditional snow-hardened maple syrup candy.

If you like French Canadian folk music (which can be lots of fun and is the festival’s main draw), or want a chance to practice your French (but it’s not compulsory), then the festival can be very interesting, especially if you’re from French Canadian heritage.

 

Festival du Bois at Mackin Park

 

Festival du Bois Admission

Since the 2021 festival is happening online, admission is free for everyone!

In past years, admission cost about $20 for adults, $13 for seniors and students, $8 for children ages 5 to 12, and $50 for a family of 4. They are usually less expensive if you buy them online in advance as well. Hopefully ticket prices for future years will be similar.

 

2020 Hours of Operation

For an idea of what to expect in future years, when in-person events are once again possible, in 2020 the Festival du Bois was open at the following times:

  • Friday, March 6 – enjoy the Contra Dance in the Grand Chapiteau (Big Tent) in Mackin Park from 7 pm to 10 pm. The Sybaritic String Band performed live.
  • Saturday, March 7 – 11:45 am to 7:30 pm
  • Sunday, March 8 – 9:00 am to 4:30 pm

 

Festival Admission Prices

Below were the admission prices for 2020 if you paid in advance online. Tickets at the gate were about $2 extra per person or $5 for a family. Tickets for the pancake breakfast on the Sunday could be purchased on the day (March 8th) for between $4 and $8.

  • Friday Night: Free but limited amount so register in advance online
  • Saturday & Sunday (March 7 or 8):
    • Adults (18+): $20
    • Students & Seniors: $13 per day
    • Children (ages 5-12): $8 per day
    • 1-Day Family Pass: $50 (2 adults & 2 children under 13 years of age).
    • Little Folk (under 5 years of age): free.

TIP: If you purchase your tickets online you’ll save a couple of dollars.

 

Contra Dancing at Festival du Bois
Contra Dancing in the Grand Chapiteau

 

Festival Du Bois Activities

Festival du Bois is happening online in 2021. Further details are to be confirmed, so check the Festival du Bois website for the most up-to-date information.

In past festivals, there were food vendors, community organization information stalls, and games and other activities for children. There was also an Opening Night Contra Dance party on the Friday night and live entertainment all weekend.

 

Opening Night Contra Dance

In 2020 the Opening Night Contra Dance took place from 7:00 until 10:00 pm on the Friday at the festival’s Mackin Park venue at 1046 Brunette Avenue. Admission was free but it was recommended that you registered in advance online as only so many people could enter the park.

In years when it happens, the Contra Dance is a family-friendly event that involves a style of folk dancing in lines of couples. Back to provide the live music for the event’s fourth year in 2020 was the Sybaritic String Band which specializes in contra dancing.

Note: The Contra Dance is open to people of all ages. It is a family-friendly event that’s recommended for adults and “children who like dancing with adults” (which means there aren’t separate little kids’ activities). It’s a lot of fun!

A few hundred people attend the Contra Dance event. Instructions are provided in English, mixed with a bit of French, and then everyone does a particular dance. New instructions are then provided for a new dance, participants go through the steps, and then everyone dances once again.

The dances are simple, fun and lively. Mostly people dance in pairs, and folks are encouraged to switch partners from time to time.

For more information about the Friday event click Opening Night Contra Dance. For an idea of what to expect at the event, check out the following video.

 

 

Festival Entertainment

The Festival du Bois in 2020 opened on the Friday night with a Soirée Contra Dance in the Grand Chapiteau with live music by The Sybaritic String Band.

On the Saturday and Sunday each year the festival features a wide range of musicians from as far away as Cape Breton and beyond. Performers in 2020 included the following:

  • Yves Lambert Trio – a passionate and lively musical trio from Quebec.
  • Tipsy 3 – from Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, these three ladies play traditional music using the fiddle, the piano and the accordion.
  • Cristian de la Luna – a Columbian music performer who sings in French, Spanish and English.
  • Le Flo Franco – a rapper who mixes in Caribbean sounds to his music.
  • Blackthorn – a Celtic band from British Columbia made up by four amazing musicians who create original traditional music.
  • Isabelle la Wonderful – a performer and comedian who specializes in magic shows, balloon animals and face painting.

Click Festival Program for more information and to see a full list of performers.

 

Vancouver's Festival du Bois
Live Music in the Grand Chapiteau

 

2020 Festival Schedule

Below is the schedule of events for the Festival du Bois for the Saturday and Sunday in 2020 (with most performances running for between 30 minutes and up to one hour). The lineup of performers in 2022 will likely be comparable.

(Note: Times and performer details were subject to change.)

 

Saturday, March 7, 2020

 

On the Main Stage/Grand Chapiteau

  • 11:45 amThe Sybaritic String Band
  • 12:30 pmSalutations Officielles (Official Welcome)
  • 1:00 pmBlackthorn
  • 2:10 pmTipsy 3
  • 3:20 pmBeauséjour
  • 4:30 pmChristian de la Luna
  • 5:40 pmLe Flor Franco
  • 6:50 pm – Yves Lambert Trio

 

In the Petit Chapiteau/Children’s Tent

  • 12:15 pmMadame Dive
  • 1:30 pmIsabelle le Wonderful
  • 2:45 pmWanda Jemly

 

Ateliers/Workshops at Mackin House

  • 12:30 pmTipsy 3
  • 1:30 pmBeauséjour
  • 2:40 pmCristian de la Luna

 

Festival du Bois Tent Venue

 

Sunday, March 8, 2020

 

On the Main Stage/Grand Chapiteau

  • 9:00 am – Mass
  • 10:00 am – Pancake Breakfast
  • 10:30 amTipsy 3
  • 11:35 amRoger Dallaire, Daniel Gervais et Jeremiah McDade  
  • 12:40 pmBeauséjour
  • 1:45 pmCristian de la Luna
  • 2:50 pmLe Flo Franco
  • 3:50 pmYves Lambert Trio

 

In the Petit Chapiteau/Children’s Tent

  • 12:00 pmGriotte la Polyglotte
  • 1:00 pmRoger Dallaire, Daniel Gervais et Jeremiah McDade
  • 2:00 pmDenis Leclerc
  • 3:00 pmMadame Diva

 

Ateliers/Workshops at Mackin House

  • 12:00 pmTipsy 3
  • 1:00 pmGriotte la Polyglotte
  • 2:10 pmRoger Dallaire, Daniel Gervais et Jeremiah McDade
  • 3:10 pmDenis Leclerc

 

Accordionist Serge Duchesne

 

Traditional Menu Items

There is typically lots of food available at the festival. There are food trucks and various vendors, plus a canteen-style venue in the Grand Chapiteau. Prices are all reasonable.

In 2020 the menu at the food station in the Grand Chapiteau included pea soup, pork & beans, a slice of tourtière (meat pie) and sugar pie all for $5 each. Other menu items included a “Lumberjack Plate” with an assortment of items for $13 and bread with pork pâté for $4. Juice was $1 and pop, coffee and tea were $2.

At the festival’s bar there is usually beer and wine available.

 

Festival du Bois Bar Folk
Folk in Plaid at the Festival du Bois Bar

 

Mackin House Museum

If you’re at the Festival du Bois anyway, walk across the street and visit the Mackin House Museum while you’re there. Also, as you’ll see, at set times there is live entertainment at the historic site during the festival.

Built in the early 1900’s, the heritage building was the home of the General Manager of Fraser Mills, at one time the largest sawmill in the British Empire. Admission is by donation. Expect to stay for just a few minutes, unless there during a performance.

The Mackin House Museum is normally open Tuesdays to Fridays (11-5 pm) and Saturdays (12-4 pm). It’s also open from noon until 4 pm on Sundays in the summer. Admission is by donation.

 

Other Information

For more information about the festival, including their schedule of performances, check out the Festival du Bois website.

For other Lower Mainland festivals throughout the year, check out the Vancouver’s Best Places’ Festivals and Events Calendar.

And for other things to do in March, check out the March Events Calendar.

 

* Photos in the above video featuring performers in 2021 are of the following musicians (with photo credits in brackets): Florent Vollant (by Jean-Charles Labarre), Jocelyn Pettit (Audrey Thizy), Schryer & Hillhouse (Hunter Ramey), Jocleyne Baribeau (Kristen Sawatzky) and Monsieur André (Guylaine Charest). Also in the video are photos of Sirène et Matelor (Davy Gallant), Joseph Edgar (Marc-Olivier Horth Beaulieu), Winston Band (Marc-André Dupaul), Isabelle la Wonderful, Frenchie the Clown (David Cooper), Genticorum (Guy Tremblay), Loig Morin with Maud G.L. (Andrey Folomeyev) and Roger Dallaire.