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Celebrants Fill Governor’s Mansion for French Heritage Week Gala

July 12, 2007 — Catharineberg sparkled with life Thursday evening as hundreds of members of the island's French community danced, sang and ate elegant hors d'oeuvres served by young waiters dressed smartly in black and white.
They sipped wine, they danced to Richard Berry's Seabreeze band, they nibbled the canapes and danced some more. Everyone was dressed in their finest; ordinary friendships became special as folks greeted one another and marveled at each other's elegance. "Would you like to dance?" "Oh, it's you — I hardly knew you looking so handsome!"
The gleaming white building glowed under a setting sun overlooking the early evening lights appearing on Charlotte Amalie harbor. The estate was truly the "people's residence," as Gov. John deJongh Jr. declared when he welcomed everyone to the reception in honor of French Heritage Week.
"Bon jour," he greeted the crowd. "I won't talk long; that's all of my French tonight. Don't leave until there is no food or drink left. It's your home; enjoy it."
The governor and the first lady, Cecile deJongh, were joined by Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis and Cheryl Francis as they accepted gifts from St. Barth's first elected vice president, Yves Greaux. The vice president presented them from Bruno Magras, the island's former mayor and first elected president, who could not be present Thursday.
The presentation was preceded by remarks from the honorary French Consul Odile de Lyrot and rousing renditions of the “V.I. March” and “La Marseillaise” by the St. Anne Chapel's children's choir, Les Enfants de St. Anne.
And then everyone got back to the business of the night: dancing, drinking and having fun.
There was even a sort of French version of the electric slide joined by all, including former Sen. Craig Barshinger and Sen. Terrence “Positive” Nelson, both more than six feet, towering over the crowd, sliding along with petite Elizabeth Aubain and Colette Monroe, everyone laughing.
Members of the Petit Theatre de Francoise, part of the St. Barth's delegation, circulated among the crowd, taking it all in.
"We've never been here before," explained France Lise Greaux. "It's beautiful." She was with Alexandra Ledee, Ronald Questel and Emily Gumbs, who will perform Saturday night at the Frenchtown Bastille Day celebration.
Greaux's mother, Francoise Greaux, writes all of the group's plays. Speaking in French as her daughter translated, she said she began writing at a young age and has never stopped. She writes plays and stories, and is working on a history of St. Barths. She explained a little of Saturday's production.
"It's a love story about a young boy who comes to St. Thomas to fish and meets a girl here," Greaux explained. He falls in love and brings her back home to meet his family in St. Barths.
Does the family approve?
"Oh yes," the younger Greaux said. "It's just a 20-minute play. They love her, everyone approves. It's happy."
The reception was the second event in the five-day long Bastille celebration, which began with a reception Wednesday evening by the French consul. Saturday evening in Frenchtown is the highlight of the event, with performances by the St. Barths’ group, music by the 73rd National Guard band and the dedication of the Frenchtown Museum annex. (See "French Heritage Week Celebrations Begin in Partnership.")
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