Planning for Cygnet’s annual “Le Weekend” is underway and anyone who wants to be involved should contact: Le Weekend team
The inaugural festival on the 13th & 14th February this year was enjoyed by all. We celebrated and commemorated our deep connection to legendary French explorers Bruni D’Entrecasteaux, Jacques de Labillardière, Huon de Kermadec and Nicolas Baudin.
Le Weekend: un grand succès
Cygnet’s inaugural French festival, Le Weekend @ Cygnet, attracted an estimated 5,000 people over the weekend to a town decorated in blue, white and red – with the French tricolore flying high above the town hall.
The event was opened by the Premier, Will Hodgman, who rode into Cygnet on Saturday with an escort of two tandem bikes decorated in French colours, and two Tour de France-style bikes. The highlight of the opening was a spirited rendition of La Marseillaise by soprano, Helen Thomson, which she concluded by singing the words of the Australian anthem to the French tune.
More than 140 cyclists took part In Sunday’s Bendigo Bank Tour de Cygnet with an endurance ride of 38km and a larger family ride of 17km. Like many people who turned up for the festival, a large number of cyclists decked themselves out in French colours and costumes.
The event proved so unexpectedly popular that some of the cafes and stalls ran out of food on both afternoons while the Valentine’s Day French champagne breakfast at Port Cygnet Sailing Club attracted more than 100 patrons.
“We very nearly ran out of food too,” said one of the breakfast organisers, Judi Willoughby. “We were left with just a few baguettes – and we even managed to auction those off.”
Peter George, one of the events organisers, described Le Weekend as an unexpected success with far more people filling the streets than anticipated and a festive atmosphere.
“We planned a more modest affair but it grew rather larger than could have hoped,” he said. “But traders in the town and visitors alike seem to have responded very positively and there seems quite a demand that we turn this into an annual event.”
The French banquet, catered by Government House executive chef, Ainstie Wagner, sold out within days of tickets being released.
An unexpected highlight of the weekend was a talk by Bob Brown on the history of French exploration of the region, and relations between the navigators and scientists and the aboriginal population. More than 300 people packed the town hall to hear him speak along with French astronomer, Jean-Philippe Beaulieu, who talked about his research into the original European garden planted by the French at Recherche Bay.
For two days, the Bayside Boules and Petanque Club encouraged visitors to learn the popular game of bowls with metal balls, and according to Terry Dando, a sporting competition between French and Australians ended with the locals beating the French at their own game.
While the first Le Weekend @ Cygnet was considered a great success, Peter George says that the organisers have learnt a good deal about how to put a festival together over the last few months.
“It seems likely we will do this again if the residents and businesses want us to and we’ll put those lessons to good use – to make next year bigger, better and more entertaining,” he said.
“Le Weekend is supposed to be a happy, easy-going experience that makes us wonder what would this area have been like if the French had decided to colonise Tasmania. It’s not hard to imagine chateaux looming over the valley and a town with cobblestone streets.”
During a remarkable decade between 1793 & 1803, the French expeditions visited and mapped this then pristine region.