Festival Society chair passing the torch after 2015 festival

by Stephen Dafoe

After this year’s St. Jean Baptiste Festival, Festival Chair Paul Smith will step back from the lead role in the organization’s activities, passing the torch to Vice Chair David LeBel. Smith made the announcement at the Festival Society’s May 6 meeting.

Smith said he is stepping back, not down from the group he has been an active part in for the past half decade. Smith will work with LeBel throughout the duration of 2015, and then take on the role as Past Chair and Advisor to provide some continuity.

The local business owner and concert promoter has served as Festival Chair for four years. Prior to that, he served one year as Vice Chair and one year as Entertainment Director.

“I’m very proud of the hands this committee is in and proud to have been chair of this committee,” Smith said. “I’m elated that festivals will continue strong for years to come.”

Smith said a major part of his advisor role would be keeping the links and relationships with the Festival Society’s many sponsors open and strong.

Incoming Festival Chair David LeBel said he realizes he has some big shoes to fill. “It’s a large role to assume, considering I’ve only been with the Festival Society for a year,” he said. “Fortunately, I feel the community is really supporting what we are trying to do, and knowing that I’ll have the support and guidance of people who have done this before, together we can work to continue to improve the festivals each year.”

Though he won’t assume the helm until 2015, LeBel said he sees his primary objective as community building and working with an objective of bringing the town together.

“What I see as the vision is having the Festival Society more present throughout the year,” LeBel said. “Last year we focused really hard on two events and then the Country Fair was run separately,” LeBel said. “This year we are taking control of the Country Fair and the Farm-to-Table Dinner. We also want to get involved with Family Day like it once was, and continuing the Farmers’ Market year round.”

LeBel said future iterations of their fall event sponsored by Champion Petfoods would get back to the original food roots. “I want to lean that festival out a bit and make it more focused to what it is supposed to be as opposed to being a second St. Jean Baptiste Festival,” LeBel said, adding a smaller and more focused festival would alleviate volunteer workloads. “It will be more food, more music — directed at what it is supposed to be as opposed to a carnival all weekend.”

No date is set for the Festival Society’s fall festival. St. Jean Baptiste Festival takes place June 19 to 21.

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