Ties to France, Belgium and Canada celebrated on Internet website
Brats and beer may be more visible around Northeastern Wisconsin than baguettes and beaujolais.
But more than 350 years after Jean Nicolet soaked his boots in la Baye, Wisconsin's connections to French culture and heritage are getting a boost, merci beaucoup.
Indeed, the state's ties to French Canada, not to mention the French-speaking parts of Belgium are substantial enough to have inspired the construction of an Internet website.
Ken Fleurant, a University of Wisconsin-Green Bay professor, has the site up and running at www.uwgb.edu/wisfrench.
Made possible by a grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council, Wisconsin's French Connection, Going on 400 Years is a collaborative effort involving participants in the entire state.
By the time the Wisconsin's official celebration of its 150th anniversary as a state rolls around in 1998, this electronic monument to the contributions made by French-speaking immigrants will be a resource for educators, academics, genealogists and francophiles the world over.
In addition to local and family history, there will be information on business ties to France, festivals, folklore and recipes.
Project coordinators have just completed a curriculum packet, which they are eager to get into the hands of language and social studies teachers.
"It's already really taken off," Fleurant said of the website last week. 'We've been adding quite a bit."
Wisconsin's upcoming Sesquicentennial served as the impetus for the site. "It occurred to us that recently there has been a lot done about the Germans, the Belgians and Italians," Fleurant said. "But in the last 25 years or so not much had been done on the French."
Though there is considerable information on Wisconsin's French influences, that information "is all pretty scattered," Fleurant said.
Also, the influx of people with ties to other nations in the past 150 years has overshadowed the French presence, which dates back to the 1600s.
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