Rain can’t deter huge Poutine Fest crowd

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There were a lot of people at Poutine Fest….

MANCHESTER, NH – Despite on-and-off rain, numerous fans of perhaps the most quintessentially French-Canadian dish descended upon Northeast Delta Dental Stadium on Saturday for the third annual New Hampshire Poutine Fest.

Organized by the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and the Franco-American Centre, this year’s event included nine restaurants from across New Hampshire serving various types of the quintessentially Quebecois cuisine.

Franco-American Center vice president Joe Theriault has been involved with Poutine Fest since its inception, and he’s seen continual improvement with each edition.

“We had a rough first year which looms large in our heads and has dictated how we do things since then. Every year we try and make it a little better. The lines went smooth last year, but they got a little long, so we split up the groups.”

People coming to the event still had significant wait times to go between the various poutine booths, but Theriault noted that people he saw seemed to be taking it in stride.

“It’s amazing that it seems to be working, you look it and assume that people must be confused,” he said. “Then I’d go up to someone and everyone’s like ‘I know, I see a 20-minute wait on this line and I’m good for it.”

One of those people waiting on line was Peter Slivka of Grafton, Mass.

Slivka was intrigued by the concentration of poutines within such a small area.

“It’s good to get different varieties, there are different places that do it very differently,” he said.

This was Slivka’s first time at the Poutine Fest and his first time at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.

Due to the rain, he was unsure whether he’d attend Fisher Cats’ game at the stadium a few hours later, but he was definitely considering it and said he’d consider future events at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium as well.

That sentiment is one of the key reasons the Fisher Cats frequently hold non-baseball events at or around the stadium, such as Poutine Fest, the recent “Dueling Pianos” concert and food truck festival on Aug. 17 and 18.

Fisher Cats president Mike Ramshaw says these events help draw potential fans who may not have other come to the park, but Poutine Fest has a special role due to the team’s various French-Canadian connections.

The event was part of the Fisher Cats’ Franco-American night celebration, with a variety of French-Canadian themed promotions during Saturday night’s game, ranging from a specialized jersey to a French rendition of “O’ Canada” before the game and various Quebecois games between innings.

“(Franco-American night) celebrates Canadian heritage and we are an affiliate of the only Canadian major league team, but it also honors the culture of French-Canadian families here in Manchester and throughout northern New England,” said Ramshaw. “It’s important for us to show that heritage to thank both our parent club and the local community as well as the numerous Canadian players that have helped our team over the years.”

In addition to the event becoming a cultural touchstone and a showcase for Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, Poutine Fest also serves as a chance for local restaurants to prove their poutine prowess.

One of those restaurants was The Wilder of Portsmouth, participating in the event for the first time.

Poutine is a staple item on The Wilder’s restaurant’s menu, over a thousand people tried their take on the dish, which included locally sourced braised beef, thrice cooked potatoes and cheddar cheese curds.

“We always have a poutine dish on our menu, especially when we expect larger numbers of Canadian tourists,” said Wilder owner/operator Julian Armstrong. “I’d like to see a lot of Manchester residents come over to Portsmouth following this event and try us out.”

More information on the event is available at nhpoutinefest.com