A Cultural Celebration

“Bonjour” and “merci” echoed through the walkways, as smiling faces gathered in groups, stuffing themselves with pastries and classic breads. The brisk wind swirled through the auditorium, but did not distract the performers from their presentation of “Les Trois Petit Cochons.” The French Festival was in full swing.

On Nov. 14, 2014, French students from West Johnston, Corinth Holders, Smithfield-Selma and Clayton high schools gathered in the auditorium to celebrate the annual “French Festival,” a four-year tradition intended to give French students a unique day of learning.

“[The festival] is a county wide competition that approaches the curriculum differently by requiring students to perform plays, participate in [a] spelling bee, grammar test, and other events,” instructor Shannon Ferguson said.

The schools rally together in teams or in compete in solo performances, attempting to come out  of the tournament victorious and receive the “Eiffel Trophy,” a miniature Eiffel Tower the festival passes around to each winning school annually.  French students further elaborated on the events the festival hosted.

“We had several events that we went through. There was the French 3 play, the French 3 poem, the French 1 skit, the French 1 poem, and the entire French department song where all the French students sang,” junior Ben Meshaw said.

Kyle "Louis" Pfister narrates "Les Trois Petit Cochons." Photo by Cheyenne Avery.

Kyle “Louis” Pfister narrates “Les Trois Petit Cochons.” Photo by Cheyenne Avery.

Students enjoyed taking creative approaches to their events and taking a break from their classical classroom routines.

“For our skit we had the prompt of ‘a patient goes to the doctor and the doctor gives strange remedies’…we had the ‘patient’ come in with a headache and the ‘doctor’ told him to wear his shoes on his hands. That definitely doesn’t fix a headache,” Meshaw said.

The festival began at West, and returned to its beginnings for its fourth incarnation. Organizing and implementing each event took collaboration within the French department and French alumni.

“Lots of student involvement went into this– Melanie Langness and Abby Britt choreographed the song, I had seven former French 4 students prepare and present all of the food. My [teacher’s assistant] and other former French students moved tables, set up microphones, projectors, things like that,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson and other festival coordinators intend for the events to both further the students’ education and immerse them in French culture.

“During the festival we had crepes with Nutella and cream puffs and cheese and baguettes and also croissants for the students to get the feel of French cuisine,” Meshaw said.

The festival is designed to immerse students in a real-life representation of the curriculum, down to the smallest detail. To achieve a completely French environment, coordinators seek out French-speaking judges.

“The biggest challenge is finding French speaking judges from the community, other than that it’s just logistical– the order of events, where things should be, having the necessary supplies…” Ferguson said.

While some students roll their eyes and slouch in a corner away from the action, others truly appreciate the opportunities the festival provides them with. Senior Abby Morales-Cortes explained that, while she did enjoy being out of class for a day, she was happy to meet other students learning the same things she was, and was excited to meet adults fluent in French.

“I enjoyed talking to the judges(s) because I saw how people who speak fluent French actually speak– I experienced it. I was able to see his accent, and I want to get that good,” Morales-Cortes said.

Students spend most of the fall semester practicing for certain events. The bigger events– the group song and the class skits– require hours of rehearsal. Some students become dedicated and attached to their assigned roles, and are disappointed when other students mock the festival.

“The worst part was probably watching the other schools do a really bad job on some things, like, seeing people not put in effort was difficult to watch,” sophomore Celine Greene said.

By teaching the language in a unique way, the festival manages to intrigue even the most apathetic high schooler. Students and teachers alike consider the festival a success, and look forward to its return next school year.

“It’s fun! I think students appreciate learning where they stand and showing off things they do well,” Ferguson said. “I also think people try harder or want to be better when they have an audience instead of in class.”