Paul Bunyan Pays a Visit to France
By Jake Juliot of Meet Minneapolis
The city of Tours, France is a beautiful place full of richly historical destinations and landmarks, like the medieval center, the Botanical Garden, and. . . Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues?
That last part isn’t true, but Paul and Babe (who are staples of Bemidji, Minnesota) did pay a visit to Tours when Minneapolis, Minnesota was chosen as the featured destination in the “Foire de Tours,” a 10-day regional festival that drew over 300,000 guests from the Loire Valley region of France. This honor was in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Tours-Minneapolis sister city relationship, and gave the delegation the opportunity to bring a taste of Minneapolis culture and history all the way to Tours.
As a Public Affairs Specialist for Meet Minneapolis, part of my job is overseeing the 12 Sister City relationships that Minneapolis has, including the relationship with Tours, France, I was thrilled to be a part of this event. As the featured destination of Foire de Tours, Minneapolis had a working restaurant run by a local chef, an expo tent, entertainment representing our region, and an outdoor display that featured a mock lake (Minnesota is known as the “Home of 10,000 Lakes), log cabin, canoes, and — you guessed it — Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox replicas. Meet Minneapolis worked diligently with our Minneapolis Tours Sister City board and committee members to represent Minneapolis in the best way we could, and I am very proud of the results.
Our expo tent housed a long, winding table with iPads and headphones (similar to an Apple Store) that featured video content from Minnesota businesses and organizations, as well as music from well-known Minnesota artists like Prince and Bob Dylan. The tent was divided into 5 sections that highlighted different parts of Minneapolis; Recreation, Technology, History, Arts, and Ecology. Explore Minnesota Tourism and Hennepin County came on board as partners and helped promote the city and state in the tent.
In order to highlight Minnesota’s American Indian history, we invited local Oglala Lakota chef Sean Sherman, who is also known as the “Sioux Chef,” to curate our working restaurant. Sean created a Minnesota-themed menu influenced by American Indian cuisine and came to Tours with us to train French chefs how to make the food to serve to the guests of the Foire de Tours. A staple ingredient of the dishes was Minnesota Wild Rice from the White Earth Reservation, which was also sold in the tent to guests, along with American Indian jewelry and crafts.
For entertainment, we featured American Indian singers and dancers three times a day for festival attendees. The group of eight was comprised of singers and dancers from two Minnesota-based American Indian performance groups: Native Pride Dancers and Midnite Express Singers. Their performances included Northern Traditional Dance, Fancy Shawl Dancing, Jingle Dress Dancing, Men’s Hoop Dancing, Fancy Dancing, and more. The performances were well-received and each show brought a very large crowd of people. This form of dancing and singing is much underrepresented in France and Europe and it was a great joy to be able to bring a rich piece of American Indian and Minnesotan history to our Sister City in Tours.
Being the featured destination at Foire de Tours was a lot of hard work, but our efforts paid off. We estimated that over 75,000 people came into the Minneapolis pavilion over the ten days of the Foire de Tours, and many were unaware of the special relationship Minneapolis and Tours have with each other. We are honored to have been able to share Minneapolis culture and history with our sister city, as well as commemorate our 25th anniversary through this people-to-people opportunity.