The Dîner en Plaid, a lumberjack-themed dinner dance set for Feb. 22 at the Beban Park Social Centre, is a great way to kick off the Francophone Association of Nanaimo’s Maple Sugar Festival. Photo by Dirk Heydemann/HA Photography

Party en français: You’ll be sweet on the Maple Sugar Festival

Discover many great ways to immerse yourself in French culture in Nanaimo

You’ve likely tried poutine, the quintessential French-Canadian dish of fries covered in delicious gravy and cheese curds (or many other toppings these days). But have you ever sampled maple syrup taffy, known in French as la tire d’érable?

Those are just two of many elements you’ll find Feb. 22-24 at the Maple Sugar Festival, Nanaimo’s annual celebration of French Canadian culture at the Beban Park Social Centre.

Whether you’re fluent in French or not, this three-day event hosted by the Francophone Association of Nanaimo gives you a chance to experience the best in French language music, traditional cuisine, games for the kids and more.

Start your weekend in style, en français

To kick off the festival on the Friday, you’ll want to channel your inner woodsman for the lumberjack-themed Dîner en Plaid. The evening includes a gourmet dinner prepared by local chef, and performances by notable francophone artists Le Groupe Swing, Laurie Leblanc, Mike Deway and Narissa Young.

“It’s more than the food , it’s the culture and a chance to celebrate the ‘joie de vivre’ (joy of living),” says Cristian Alejandro Zurita with the francophone association. “It’s a great way to kick off the festival.”

The event and the music runs from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. and you’ll want to get your tickets early. Save $10 on adult admission by getting your tickets in advance online from the Port Theatre.

Saturday’s schedule gets underway at 10:15 a.m. with the official opening ceremonies and the singing of “O Canada” happening at 11:15. The weekend is filled with family friendly activities, with everything from street entertainers, balloon sculptors and face painting, to a fun photo booth and an artisan’s market with handmade local products. And the live music continues throughout, to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday.

Here’s some other ways to immerse yourself in French culture:

  1. Donate your time The Maple Sugar Festival, the association’s largest event of the year, runs with the unpaid help of between 100 and 120 people. You can also apply to volunteer for their other events.
  2. Join the fun You can become a member of the association and hear about all of the activities and events, as well as share in guiding the organization.
  3. Attend events in your community From monthly meet and greets to special dinners, concerts and even summer camps for kids, you can mix and mingle with your francophone neighbours.
  4. Learn the language With a variety of levels of instruction, you can hone your French language skills in a relaxed environment


For more on the festival, visit or follow the Francophone Association of Nanaimo on Facebook.


The Francophone Association of Nanaimo’s Maple Sugar Festival pays homage to the Indigenous peoples of the area. Photo by Dirk Heydemann/HA Photography

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