Franco-Ontarians set to celebrate identity, young talent at La Nuit sur l'étang

The 45th edition of La Nuit sur l'étang takes place this Saturday night at the Collège Boréal amphitheatre. Festivities will kick off on Friday with a concert featuring emerging artists.

45-year-old tradition continues this weekend in Sudbury

Performers on stage at last year's La Nuit sur l'étang in Sudbury. (Carl Sincennes/Radio-Canada)

La Nuit sur l'étang roughly translates to "A Night on the Pond," and it got its memorable name when festival organizers decided to embrace what is still regarded as a derogatory term used to mock French-speaking people.

"A lot of young students that were organizing the event knew that they were 'frogs,'" explains Pierre-Paul Mongeon, the festival's executive director, with a chuckle.

Pierre-Paul Mongeon is the executive and artistic director for the 45th version of La Nuit sur l'étang, which takes place March 24th in Sudbury. (Benjamin Aubé/CBC)

"It's part of their humour. [Franco-Ontarians] laugh about themselves. They're very open," he adds. "Self-deprecation is part of the culture of francophones in the North."

The 45th version of La Nuit sur l'étang takes place this Saturday night at the Collège Boréal amphitheatre in Sudbury.

The night-long music and arts festival has been an important cultural event for French-speakers in Ontario going back to its debut in 1973.

Festivities will kick off on Friday with a separate concert featuring emerging artists.

Forging an identity

Mongeon explains the festival began in 1973 after a set of meetings regarding francophone access to post secondary education at Laurentian University.

At the close of the meetings, a large music concert was staged. It didn't end until 6 a.m.

"They suddenly realized there was something missing in the North, and it was a French festival. There were none in Ontario in those days," recalls Mongeon.

He explains La Nuit helped confirm what was starting to become clear in the minds of many: French-speakers in Ontario had different needs from their English-speaking cousins, but also shared little in common with their neighbours in Québec.

"It's a festival that celebrates your own heritage, your own identity, and everybody needs that, to have an identity," says Mongeon.

The future featured

This year's festival will shine the spotlight on up-and-coming musicians.

The main event Saturday night will see more than a dozen artists each recreating a Franco-Ontarian song that influenced their music or their lives.

Timmins' Célèste Lévis will be among the performers at the 45th La Nuit sur l'étang on Saturday. (Radio-Canada)

"We will be celebrating 45 years of music; there will be songs from the '60s, but there will mainly be songs from a lot of new bands," says Mongeon.

Among the artists that will take the stage are Moonfruits, Georgian Bay, Joëlle Villeneuve, Joey-Robin Haché and the headliner, Le Groupe Swing.

Mongeon says festival organizers are expecting about 800 people throughout the weekend.

Tickets are available through the Théatre du Nouvel-Ontario's website,