Pope Pius X sanctioned St. John the Baptist as the patron saint of the French in North America in 1908, 70 years after his birth date was already an event used as a demonstration of French-Canadian nationalism.
Members of the Saints Peter and Paul Church choir in 1896 on a very elaborate float bearing the banner "Excelsior." In center, a little to the right, is H. F. Roy, the choir director. Behind the organ is Emilie Couturier.
La Grande Hermine was the ship that carried Jacques Cartier to Canadian soil.
E. Lemelin of New Auburn designed this float and also portrayed the great French explorer on it.
An early St. John mascot, Alfred Auger (1885-1942), was a member of a prominent early immigrant family in the Lewiston-Auburn area.
Alfred Auger's depiction of St. Jean Baptiste was captured in this oil painting. He is portrayed in a rural scene.
Auger (1885-1942), a native of East Poland, who was portrayed as a young St. John in the above oil painting, later became an entertainer in Atlantic City, New York and Boston.
In Lewiston, huge popular parades were held from 1875 to 1966.
Organizing the event, which involved thousands of people, was a massive undertaking.
For three-quarters of a century, Lewiston's oldest Franco group, L'Institut Jacques Cartier, was responsible for the large-scale annual celebration.
The Tancrel home at 24 River Street, Lewiston, was decorated for the feast of St. John the Baptist on June 24, 1895.
From left are Alfred Tancrel, unknown, Marie Philippon (future wife of Alfred), unknown, Zenaide Tancrel, Ozios Tancrel (to right of steps in uniform of Société de St- Joseph), and at the bottom of steps, Clothilde, Julia, and Rose Philippon.
Patriotism and ethnic pride highlighted these public manifestations
The banner's slogan is translated "Loyal yet still French-Canadians."
The banner includes a number of symbols: the eagle, fleur-de-lis, maple leaf, and the beaver as well as the French and American flags.
During World War II, patriotism was highlighted in the parade by the presence of Franco-Americans in their military uniforms.
In conjunction with the parade, a special mass was held at one of the Franco-American churches in the area.
Here, the Ste-Marie Church entrance is decorated with the flags of the United States, France, and Québec for the occasion.
Founded in 1923, a federation of local Franco groups, La Ligue des Société, took charge of planning the event in 1927.
On the eve of the holiday a huge bonfire was held. The following morning, there was a church service and a parade.
In the afternoon outdoor athletic competitions took place and an evening banquet closed the festivities.
In 1964, the mass and banquet were held at Holy Cross Church.
The floats often had historical themes relating to the French in North America, such as this float about French missionaries evangelizing Indians.
The Notre Dame De Lourdes float in 1958 commemorated the centennial (1858-1958) of the first apparition of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes, France.
Explorer Jacques Cartier was remembered in many parades.
The Institut Jacques Cartier sponsored this float in 1959.
Social organizations with banners and badges wove their way along elaborate parade routes through the streets of downtown Lewiston and New Auburn.
Here the Assumption Society's Little Evangelines march in the 1962 parade.
The Jacques Cartier snowshoe club was one of dozens of groups that participated in the annual event.
The car festooned with streamers is on Broad Street in New Auburn.
The Ste-Marie parish float in the 1965 St. John the Baptist parade depicts the "Beheading of John the Baptist." The float is on Cedar Street in Lewiston, heading toward the bridge to New Auburn.
The Peter Allen Lumber Co. of Auburn loaned the flatbed truck.
Each year, a young curly haired boy was chosen to represent St. John the Baptist as a child on a float during the parade. He wore a sheepskin and held a staff proclaiming: Ecce Agnus Dei (Behold the lamb of God).
Altheode Chagnon is shown with a live sheep in 1940.
Roger Bouffard of Lewiston, age 6, plays the young St. John the Baptist in the 1958 celebration of the saint's birthday.
The float's banner translates as "St. John the Baptist, precursor of the lamb of God."
Paul Marichal as the young St. Jean Baptist, with his father, André Marichal, in 1963.
He is with the stuffed sheep used in the celebrations and several cardboard sheep.
The float celebrates the 40th anniversary of La Ligue des Sociétés.
Reginald Parent and his son Laurent Parent, portraying St. John the Baptist, ride with the sheep in the St. John the Baptist Day parade, June 21, 1964.
They are on Lisbon Street near the intersection with East Avenue.
Greg Gosselin as the young St-Jean-Baptiste in the St-Jean-Baptiste parade in 1965.
He is wearing the traditional sheepskin outfit, is posing with the sheep, and is holding the Ecce Agnus Dei banner.
The parades stopped in 1966, replaced by St-Jean-Baptiste banquets and Franco-American summer festivals.
Changing times, including the closing of some parish schools, the disbanding of some Franco-American organizations, and other Americanizing influences led to the end of the parades.
In Québec, the parti québécois secularized the event in 1977, renaming it La Fète Nationale.
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