Rara parade during the 2017 Haiti en Folie festival.

Weeklong festival in Montreal boasts rara parades, culinary and artisan fairs, literature and more.

MONTREAL — On June 5, Haiti en Folie, the largest multidisciplinary festival outside of Haiti, unveiled their program for the 12th annual festival. Headliners include renowned singer, Emeline Michel, and famed author, Dany Laferrière. The festival, which runs from July 25 – July 29, also features a culinary fair, an artisan fair, live performances, and rara parade.

Haitian Times chatted with festival organizer Fabienne Colas on what guests can expect this year, and why her Haitian brothers and sisters in the New York-metro area should make the trip to Montreal for this can’t miss festival.

What are some highlights of this year’s program?

This year is the most colorful, diverse and rich program we’ve had so far in 12 years! HavingEmeline Michel, Dany Laferrière, Beethova Obas, Emmanuel Obas, Fabrice Rouzier, Wesli, Toto Laraque, Wesli and so many more great artists the same year is a dream. I’m also proud that we are inaugurating a big Haiti en Folie’s Food and Drink Fair presented by Le Centre des Viandes F. Iasenza, at Lafontaine Parc in Montreal.

I’m also looking forward to the Rara parade (défilé Rara) in Montreal street, with Rara Soley and Rara Jazz. This year, we will showcase Rap Kreyòl at the Festival, which is quite refreshing! Haiti en Folie’s Book Fair is also becoming more popular. Having Dany Laferrière part of that program is big for the festival. Festival Haiti en Folie is the best of Haitian culture in one week outside Haiti and a great way to showcase Haitian culture and heritage with everyone.

How has Festival Haiti en Folie grown over the years?

The festival was created in 2007 by the Fabienne Colas Foundation. It started out as a one day event. Today, it has become the largest multidisciplinary festival outside of Haiti, to be entirely dedicated to Haitian culture. We love to showcase Haitian roots & folklore, Haitian cuisine, literature, arts & craft and much more in a way that very few events do it in the Diaspora.

But you know, the festival isn’t just a festival, it’s a movement! We are so grateful to the tremendous support of our sponsors such as TD Bank, the Canadian Government, the City of Montreal; But also to the artists that trust our vision; our army of volunteers and the audience that keep coming back every year in greater numbers and that help us spread the word. And I’m proud of the fact that 99 percent of the festival is FREE admission for everyone!

Festival Haiti en Folie attracts thousands of people every year. What do you think motivates Haitians, regardless of where they’re living, to make their way to Montreal for the festival?

I believe people are simply looking for another type of experience when it comes to diving into Haitian culture… the Festival Haiti en Folie is really not just a Festival, it’s a movement! It’s the best way to dive into Haitian culture in all its variety, charms and colors. It’s the most colorful Haitian event outside of Haiti that brings people together in a friendly and family way. Besides attracting people from all over the world every year, the festival welcomes lots of nonHaitian people too. It’s simply awesome because that allows us to show the best of Haitian culture to others. It’s refreshing to attend a festival where konpa is not the only thing you see and hear! The Haitian culture is so much richer than Konpa music, that is why our focus is elsewhere – and people just love that. But don’t get me wrong, we all like konpa music, but I truly believe it was about time we have a festival that showcase other types of Haitian music. This year, we will showcase RAP KREYÒL, for instance, and this is an opportunity to discover new artists and hear new vibes… I love that!

What are you looking forward to the most this year?

It’s not easy to choose among this amazing range events that make up the festival.

But I can say, I look forward to the first edition of the Haiti en Folie’s Food and Drink Fair (Foire Culinaire Haiti en Folie); the big Rara Parade; Dany Laferrière’s conference where people will have a chance to grab all the 30 books he’s written; Beethova Obas who is celebrating his 30th career anniversary, and Emeline Michel, our queen of Haitian Music. It’s going to be lots of fun for the festivalgoers this year!

The programming team really stepped up their game this year. I’m so proud. We are so ready to welcome the world in July in Montreal. I even heard from people organizing buses in the east-coast to come with groups to Montreal… Isn’t this simply awesome and exciting!

For more information on the festival and lineup, visit Haiti en Folie.

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