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French Twist: Alexandria’s sister city committee wants to revolutionize membership

French flag in Alexandria, photo via Alexandria-Caen Sister City Committee/Facebook

The Alexandria-Caen Sister City Committee is hoping to emerge from the other side of the pandemic reinvigorated and, in some ways, transformed.

The committee was established in 1991 and celebrates both the city’s ties with Caen, France, and French culture in general. It’s one of the more obscure ones, known primarily for the annual D-Day commemorative event, but committee member Elodie Guillon says there’s hope for that to change.

Guillon also runs an Alexandria-based French language class and tour program called French With Elodie.

“Last year we did some events online,” Guillon said. “We definitely got more people who maybe would not have come to an event in person. We had a chef demonstrate [how to make] some French pastries — crepes and truffles — and we had about 80 people participating in that, which for us was nice. It was our biggest event so far.”

The committee is hosting another online event on Thursday, Sept. 16. The meet-up will be to discuss Le Chant du loup, a French action film available on Netflix. Guillon said the cocktail discussion will likely center around depictions of the French and a general discussion of the state of the French film industry.

But Guillon said the committee members are also excited to get back to in-person activities, and are hoping to gradually work public engagement to the levels of some of the online events during the pandemic.

“Now we’re trying to get back into doing more face-to-face events,” Guillon said. “We have one event lined up for Tuesday, Sept. 18. It’s a ‘soup and sketch’ event. It’s going to be in-person but small, only about 20 people max. A drawing instructor from the Smithsonian will be there to teach people to draw.”

Guillon said the committee is hoping to broaden the circle of people who participate in its events.

“I have a lot of my students in Alexandria and they are all big Francophiles and never heard of the committee,” Guillon said. “It’s an opportunity to build awareness around the community. People know it form D-Day celebration, but there are other things to promote French culture in Alexandria. It’s always the same type of people coming, and it would be nice to increase participation, especially with a younger audience.”

Meanwhile, for her own program, Guillon is working on putting together a trip to France in October.

“It’s a group of 12 people,” Guillon said. “I’m very excited, but it’s a lot of pre-work because we have to deal with the health pass in France and I have to translate all the vaccination passes to go to restaurants. It’s a lot of work to do ahead of time, but everybody is excited. I’m hoping we’ll be able to go. Right now we’re supposed to go unless France closes their borders.”

Photo via Alexandria-Caen Sister City Committee/Facebook

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