Townspeople portray figures from the Colonial period Photo courtesy Ste. Genevieve Herald
Jour de Fête, St. Genevieve
Ste. Genevieve, the oldest town on the west bank of
the Mississippi, has created a unique tradition that blends it
past, present, and future. This riverside community about 60 miles
south of St. Louis, founded in the 1700s by French settlers, each
August brings together its rich Gallic heritage and contemporary
community interests in a spectacular two-day celebration, the Jour
de Fête. The festival was created in the 1960s, when the
county-seat agricultural community -- like so many others in the
Midwest -- was trying to find ways to revitalize its decaying
downtown area. Boasting the largest collection of French Colonial
period structures on the North America continent--more than 100
structures on the National Registry of Historic Places dot the
streets--Ste. Genevieve is a natural tourist attraction. Why not
capitalize on its historic past with a festival that brought
together artists, craftsmen, and entertainers to showcase local
Ste. Genevieve had a reputation as a town that
nurtured artists: Audubon, foremost naturalist and artist began his
career there, and in the 1930s it was the center of an artists'
colony. Today the festival attracts 700 artists, and special
exhibitions by local and out-of-town artists always have been an
important element of the festival. Many old French customs had been
kept alive by local residents, and making them part of the event
was a natural for the descendants of the founders who still delight
in dressing in colonial costumes and recreating the past. Over the
years, the event has revived the centuries-old French tradition of
the King's Ball, provided drills and reenactments by French
militiamen, and offered demonstrations of everyday colonial life.
Since its inception in 1966, the event has been completely planned
and implemented by volunteers. The county's service and civic
organizations raise money during the Jour de Fête to provide
scholarships for local students and finance a wide variety of civic
Project documentation includes a five-page narrative,
ten 8 x 10 photographs (9 black-and-white, 1 color).
Originally submitted by: Richard A. Gephardt, Representative (3rd District).
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.