AUGUSTA — A Lewiston lawmaker will play a prominent role Wednesday as the Legislature celebrates Maine’s Franco-American heritage during the 14th Annual Franco-American Day at the Capitol in Augusta.
State Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, has been tapped to serve as Senate president for the day, welcoming dignitaries from France and Canada and leading the Senate in a proclamation that recognizes the many contributions Franco-Americans have made to the state’s economy and history.
Libby, one of the few state senators who speak French and English, will give remarks in both languages and announce the newest inductees to the state’s Franco-American Hall of Fame.
Libby said he learned French from his grandfather, who was raised in Maine’s St. John River Valley, an area that, like Lewiston-Auburn, is known for its Franco-American residents.
“When I was young, he was teaching me the valley accent,” Libby said. “I would learn words like ‘table’ and ‘ice cream’ and such.”
Libby learned Parisian French in high school and has “mashed” the dialects together, more or less. “I think most French-speaking people will understand me,” he said.
Libby said he was honored to be leading some of the events Wednesday that have been going on unofficially for at least 25 years based on the efforts of the Legislature’s Franco-American Caucus, which was started by a group of lawmakers from Lewiston-Auburn, the St. John River Valley and Waterville.
Libby is co-chairman of the caucus.
Wednesday will be a day to “recognize the contributions of Franco-Americans across Maine who have done outstanding work in preserving and promoting Franco culture and the French language,” Libby said.
Republican Gov. Paul LePage, a Lewiston native and Maine’s first French-speaking Franco-American governor, also will give a speech Wednesday.
Besides special proclamations and prayers in French and English, a variety of musical groups from around Maine will perform French Canadian and Franco-American music throughout the morning in the State House Hall of Flags.
Among those will be singer Melanie Saucier of Fort Kent performing the national anthems of France, Canada and the United States in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The menu at the Cross Cafeteria in the State Office Building will serve a Franco-American menu. Displays from Franco-American organizations from around the state will be featured.
Among those being inducted into the state’s Franco-American Hall of Fame is Doris Bonneau of Auburn. Libby will read her name along with five other Mainers being honored.