A student, a traveler and a chef celebrated a French holiday in Fredericksburg on Tuesday evening.

All three — and dozens of others — marked Bastille Day in downtown’s Market Square during an event hosted by the Fredericksburg Sister City Association.

Participant Emily Carr, 16, took three years of French in school.

Her aunt, Mandy Carr, was in the first group of Fredericksburg residents who visited the city’s sister city — Fréjus, France — 35 years ago.

And chef Benedicte Merian moved to the United States from Normandy 30 years ago.

Bastille Day marks two French events: first and foremost, the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789 with the fall of the Bastille fortress. The holiday also commemorates the more peaceful “Festival of Federation” held throughout the country July 14, 1790.

On Tuesday, Market Square was decorated with French flags and most people were decked out in red, white and blue.

Emily Carr sang the French national anthem at the event.

She said she learned about the importance of Bastille Day in school.

“I’m honored to sing to people who understand the meaning and who appreciate it,” she said.

Her aunt sang the United States’ national anthem.

Mandy Carr said she has had a love for the French people since that first trip to France more than three decades ago.

She recalled meeting people with young children back then, and going back and meeting those children’s young children.

Mandy Carr has no French heritage and doesn’t speak the language, but loves to travel, which drew her to the sister city group.

She said it’s the relationships she has formed at home and abroad that has kept her going back to France with the group.

The Sister City Association now has about 80 members, although Tuesday’s festivities were open to the public.

Mandy plans to travel to France with the group in the fall for the association’s 35th anniversary.

She said the French people celebrated Thanksgiving, so in turn, they celebrate Bastille Day.

“When you do things like this, you let people know it is longstanding,” she said of Bastille Day and the relationship between Fredericksburg and Fréjus.

Merian, the chef, moved to the United States from Normandy 30 years ago.

Coming to Colonial Beach was quite the culture shock for her, she said.

She was at the celebration representing her new business, La Normandie, and serving French foods, such as crêpes.

Merian plans to open a shop in King George County in September that will sell coffee and what she calls Normandy cuisine.

On Tuesday, she stayed close to her frying pan, whipping up crêpes for the hungry crowd.

Her friend and helper, Melissa Sullivan, said Merian had bought a special crêpe-maker for the event.

The appliance hadn’t worked so well—it kept burning the thin, pancake-like pastries, she said.

So the chef went back to what she knew.

Sullivan lent her a camping stove.

“I said, ‘Get your frying pan out and do it the way your mother taught you how,’” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said Merian makes


food, which she calls the food of the peasants, unlike Parisian food.

Merian’s crêpes—served in Nutella, strawberry and sugar varieties—were popular. She also served sandwiches and sausage that her husband, Steve, grilled.

Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413 rsidersky@freelancestar.com

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​Robyn Sidersky: 540.374.5413 

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