French-Canadian band Hey Wow are among those performing at Nanaimo’s 20th annual Festival du Sucre d’Érable, or Maple Sugar Festival. (Photo courtesy Joël Ducharme)

Nanaimo’s 20th annual Maple Sugar Festival to be held online due to COVID-19

Three-day event celebrates French-Canadian art, music, food and culture

The Association des francophones de Nanaimo is bringing back some familiar faces as it marks its 20th annual Festival du Sucre d’Érable, or Maple Sugar Festival.

This year’s festival takes place from March 26 to 28 and for the first time, due to COVID-19, the festivities will be happening online.

“Honestly it was a little bit of a challenge. So much to learn,” executive director Catharine Williams said of the pivot to cyberspace. “However, I believe that we’ve got a really great show in store for everyone. I think people will truly appreciate what we are doing.”

Williams said the festival will include not only French-Canadian music, but will delve into history, culture, cuisine and art as well. She said reaching the 20-year mark speaks to the group’s “commitment to the community” and presence of francophone culture in Nanaimo. The association is recognizing that milestone by inviting headliners from previous years to perform.

Joining from Ontario are fiddle group Les Rats D’Swompe and the accordion-powered Hey Wow. Folk singers David Jalbert and André Thériault perform from Quebec. Hailing from Manitoba are comedian Micheline and twin Métis fiddlers Double Trouble.

There are also performances and activities for children, local ice sculptor Aaron Grant will create a new piece and French-Canadian food will be available for pick-up to enjoy while taking in this year’s events from home.

“[It’s been a] challenging year but I think that the hard work is going to pay off,” Williams said. “I do truly believe people are going to enjoy themselves.”

WHAT’S ON … 20th annual Festival du Sucre d’Érable takes place online on March 26 from 6 to 8 p.m, March 27 from 10 a.m. to noon, 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. and March 28 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. A link will be available at Admission free but donations accepted here.

RELATED: French Canadian culture and sweet treats at festival in Nanaimo

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