Event Radar

Hamilton’s FrancoFEST celebrates the city’s vibrant Francophone community

Live music, food vendors, arts & crafts, games, attractions, and more are coming to Hamilton’s this weekend; all with a distinct French twist. 

A local staple for more than 40 years in various iterations, Hamilton’s FrancoFEST will be making a full return for 2023 from June 16th to 18th at Gage Park near the bandshell. 

The festival celebrates and highlights the city’s Francophone identity through arts & culture, community, and local tourism by bringing local Francophone, Anglophone, and Allophone residents together for three days of fun, entertainment, and social time. 

Photo by Nathalie Prézeau

For Julie Jardel -the festival’s artistic director and executive director for the Centre Francophone Hamilton – FrancoFEST holds a particularly special spot in Hamilton’s cultural scene. 

“Nowadays, FrancoFEST is more than a date,” says Jardel, who herself moved from Paris, France to Hamilton just four years ago. “It’s the love story between Francophones, Francophiles, and their largest francophone festival in the Niagara Peninsula!” 

The festival comes from humble beginnings, originally organized as a grassroots celebration of Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day by French Canadians from Quebec and Ontario living in Hamilton. 

FrancoFEST has since grown substantially and become a professionally run annual event; one which was located at Bayfront Park for many years before relocating to Gage Park in the 2010s, where it has remained ever since. 

Jardel tells us that attendees can expect three full days of family-friendly activities with this year’s festival, including performances from a diverse range of more than 30 artists who have ties to the Franco Canadian community in some way; many of whom are also based in Hamilton. Showcases of live music, dance, fashion, visual arts, poetry, and even mime are just some of what can be expected over the weekend. 

Headliners for this year’s FrancoFEST include pop band Le Groupe Swing (LGS) and Afrobeat artist Abel Maxwell, joined by a rangy roster of other artists like pop-funk singer Bermuda, acclaimed mime Trevor Copp, reggae artist Shauit, rapper Le Flo Franco, African percussionists Alpha Rhythm Roots, Pirate Life Theatre with their 20-foot pirate ship, and Atlas Géocircus presenting a space-themed circus show, among many others. 

Photo by Centre Francophone Hamilton

But that’s not all! The festival will also have a family zone with bouncy castles, balloon animals, games, and arts & crafts; a food and drink area; and plenty of space to kick back and enjoy the sights and sounds of Gage Park. 

“Maybe you will just come for a good beer and a poutine, and that would be totally fine with us,” adds Jardel. “Everyone is welcome, whether they speak French or not!” 

FrancoFEST is already shaping up to be a uniquely wonderful community festival for 2023, and it’s one Jardel says she’s particularly proud of bringing to life in Hamilton. 

“I am more than happy to be able to put together one of Hamilton’s many artistic and cultural events, carried by many volunteers and staff, but one that celebrates our language and all the people from across the world who speak it and chose, like me, to live in the Hammer,” she says. 

FrancoFEST runs at Hamilton’s Gage Park on June 16th from 5 pm to 11 pm, June 17th from 11 am to 11:30 pm, and June 18th from 11 am to 2:30 pm. See more details and a full schedule on their website

Lead image by Katherine Fleitas

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