The SAQ New France Festival featured all sorts of attention-grabbing attractions, which entertained us and taught us the story behind “New France.” In the mid 17th century, the French king recruited and sent 800 women- many orphans – between the ages of 12-25, to find a husband in New France. The King paid their passage and provided them with a dowry. In less than 10 years, the town’s population doubled.
These women became known as “Les Filles Du Roy,” (“the king’s daughters”) and are now celebrated heroines in Quebec history. Quebequois know many of them by name, and take pride in any genealogical connection to them. The festival had kiosks where you could research your family history, and possibly find a connection.
Stone carving, alfresco painting, fencing, and a demonstration on how they changed diapers in the 17th century were all hands-on experiences that gave us a real feel for life back then. One of the highlights for me was the hilarious surgeon-barber demonstrating his tools of the trade and how he used the same tools for both trades!
Period costumes were welcome during the New France Festival. It was completely normal to see someone dressed in a hoop skirt and piled high white wig walking around as it was to see someone in flip flops. Good thing because I had my own 17th century dress and had a ball posing for pictures and I even joined one of several parades, waving and smiling like a true Fille du Roy.
The festival’s main parade was a spectacle with giant colorful paper mache figures of Les Filles du Roy accompanied by drummers, costumed actors heralding funny lines in French and infantrymen firing muskets. We rarely knew what they were saying, yet we still felt like we were part of it all.