You don’t have to travel far to experience French culture and practice your high school French. Savor the Flavors of France March 15th, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., at the 9th Annual French Fair, held at the Lucie Stern Community Center, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. Admission is free.
Expect to rub shoulders with, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, some of the 1,210,000 Americans of French descent—Franco-Americans—living in California, which tops the list of states with French communities.
“The fair was conceived in 2008 by a group of French expatriates who wanted their adopted community to learn more about France—its history, culture and products,” says fair co-founder Elisabeth Michel-Meyrueix. “They approached local French cultural associations, schools, artists, culinary artisans, and businesses. All responded enthusiastically. The Peninsula French Fair was born!”
“I have met several people who, after knowing that I was French, told me, ‘You know, there is a French Fair here,'” says Michel-Meyrueix, who was born in the Provence region of France. “And I said, ‘Yes, I know. I am the French Fair.'”
The earth shook under her feet when Michel-Meyrueix and her husband, Paul Meyrueix, said “Au Revoir” to Paris. They arrived in Santa Clara, where they have made their home for the last 25 years, on October 16, 1989, the day before the 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake. Their two daughters were born here. Strengthening her French-American connection, Michel-Meyrueix became an American citizen in April 2013.
Michel-Meyrueix co-founded the French Fair with Catherine Plottier, whom she met in 2007 at an event organized by the French American School of Sunnyvale. An offshoot of that school event, the French Fair (www.frenchfair.org) has evolved to become a prestigious event co-sponsored by the Alliances Francaise of Silicon Valley and of San Francisco.
The French Fair features everything French—handmade crafts, home decor, a fashion show, music, children’s activities, French-run service providers, and food – including crepes, cheeses, and pastries. Partners for New Generations, a Los Altos non-profit that provides tutors for students, will receive a portion of the fair proceeds.
Coinciding with the International Week of the Francophony (those states and governments where French is spoken), the fair will be attended by American and French dignitaries, including the Ambassador of the International Organization of the Francophony at the United Nations, Filippe Savadogo, who is flying in from New York.
“I’m very proud to see that the French Fair has become a visible and exciting event and that the local community, and not only the French one, has embraced the event to make it a “must see” day. From less than a dozen exhibitors a few years back, we are now to a little over 50 this year,” says Plottier, who was born in Grenoble, France.
Co-CEOs Michel-Meyrueix and Plottier recently created the company “Flavors of France” to manage the French Fair.
Close to 12 million U.S. residents are of French—including French Canadian—descent. About 1.3 million of them speak French at home, with 659,000 more reported to speak a French-based Creole language.