Annual event put on by Association of the French of the North.

    The Asham Stompers have been invited for an encore. The jig and square dance group received standing ovations at every performance at last year’s Chautauqua and French Festival.

    The dance group from Manitoba will perform Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 24 and 25, at Old Crossing and Treaty Park near Huot, MN.

    The dancers combine the Red River Jig with square dancing, adding some new steps to the traditional dance of the Canadian Metis. The jig originated from dances of the First Nations, French, English and Scots.

    “There is no language in dance. Everyone understands dance,” said Arnold Ashman, founder and leader of the group.

    At 63, he’s the senior member. Other dancers range in age from 17 to 40.
    They come from Portage la Prairie, Crane River, Reedy Creek, and the Peguis, Ebb and Flow First Nations as well as Winnipeg.

    The high energy group, formed in 2002, has traveled from Mexico to China and has given more than 100 performances, including six at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia.

    They did six performances at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Van couver, British Columbia, and more recently toured Mexico and Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.

    Beneath the ancient cottonwood trees by the old crossing of the Red Lake River, the Stompers will help re-capture and preserve the history of the Metis people through dancing.  

    And they do it with verve, vitality and obvious joy.

    “It’s our way of reaching people, instilling pride and we know we can help bring about change,” Asham said.

    Michael Audette, Manitoba Fiddle Champion, and his band will also perform at the park Saturday and Sunday.

    Throughout the weekend, there will be programs, arts and crafts displays and activities for children. Food, including French Festival specialties such a Tourtiere (meat pie) will be available.

    Admission is free and the public is welcome to all events in the park.
    The Old Crossing and Treaty Park is on Red Lake Co. Road 3 and seven miles northeast of Gentilly on County Road 11 or 10 miles southwest of Red Lake Falls.

    The festival, presented by AFRAN (Association of the French of the North), emphasizes the French heritage of the Red River Valley.

    For more information on the Chautauqua and French Festival at Huot, Minn., contact Jerry Amiot at 218-289-8889 or Virgil Benoit at 218-253-2270.

    This activity is funded, in part, by a grant from the Northwest Minnesota Arts Council and the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund as appropriated by the Minnesota State Legislature from the vote on Nov. 4, 2008.