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French association hosting online events to celebrate Francophonie month

Francophonie month will be celebrated locally through a variety of events.
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ST. PAUL - Despite a global pandemic that has resulted in restrictions against traditional gatherings for nearly a year now, the St. Paul ACFA (Association canadienne-francaise de l'Alberta) has found ways to keep people engaged and active in the Francophone community.

The organization has a list of events coming up. So while locals may not be able to take part in Cabane à sucre (sugar shack), or listen to local talents in person at the annual Galala event, they can still enjoy some French culture online.

To celebrate Francophonie month, the ACFA is organizing several virtual events, says Ahmed Seif, Directeur régional with the St. Paul ACFA. The entire month of March is set aside to celebrate francophone culture in Alberta.

A poster/photo contest aimed at elementary and secondary school students has already started and will take place until March 15. Photos and posters showcasing Cabane à sucre are being accepted until March 15. Prizes will be awarded for the photo/poster contest.

A reading series on the history of St. Paul is set for March 10. The focus of the event will be the history of St. Paul, from 1896 to 1951. The event is being delivered via Zoom and people are asked to register ahead of time. 

The Cabane à sucre event is scheduled for March 20. Normally, Cabane à sucre draws hundreds of people to enjoy sugary taffy on snow, fun games, and other winter activities.

This year, a special musical presentation has been put together by area resident Roger Dallaire. The virtual event will also include a photo archive, lessons on how to make the sugary treat 'tire d'érable' at home, and special guests Thomas and Helene Lamontagne.

Wrapping up the list of events, Galala will feature performances by young musicians on April 4. Registration to perform at the event has now closed. The event is supported by a number of local sponsors and will showcase the musical talents of youth in the area, with a focus on performing in French.

Seif says he hopes people enjoy the events offered and believes the virtual events give more visibility to local artists at the regional, provincial and even national level. The events are also easy for people to access from a mobile device or computer.

To satisfy the needs of the community, and abide by public health measures in place, the board of directors has adopted three strategies during the pandemic. Those strategies include hosting virtual events; offering them for free; and working with local artists and personalities, says Seif.

While the association has managed to to continue to offer some of its services, there have no doubt been challenges that have come up along the way.

"We are a community centre, we rely on volunteers and community support," says Seif. "The pandemic makes our work difficult, for example to organize an activity you need more time, more resources and more professionals."

With most services and events shifting to online, the ACFA office is still available to those in the community, and there are even some products for sale at the office - with an obvious French-Canadian twist. The organization is selling maple products, masks, and other items, says Seif. 

The ACFA office can be contacted by phone 780-645-4800 or by email at Saint-paul@acfa.ab.ca

Submissions for the poster/photo contest can be sent by mail to: 1925 - 4617 50 Ave, St. Paul, or by email.