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Festival of Bayard

Sunday, there was this crazy festival in Mézières for this man named Bayard. The general idea was that they were going to unveil the statue of him. The tricky part was, they seemed to have six places on this little route on the brochure. We arrived at the first meeting point and there were girls dancing and a small band was playing. After we walked through the crowd a bit, we saw that there were also two horses. One of the horses was pulling a cart that was full of women who were pretending to be dead. (I should note that these women were by far the most interesting part of the festival because they were terrifying and simultaneously funny.) When we went walking on Saturday, I read a sign that explained how Bayard had saved the city of Mézières. This explained why a short man in knight's attire was sitting on the horse that wasn't attached to the cart. OKay, so I think we might have missed the special thing that was supposed to happen at the first stop, because we were really shocked to get to the second stop and have the dead women get out of the cart and sneak up on people (like that statue in Disneyworld that moves). There was a chorus singing. At first it just sounded like colloquial french music, but after a bit they changed songs to this one that was asking "Where is the statue of Bayard? Welcome home to here Bayard!." And then this lady in costume sticks her head out of the window across the street from the chorus; and explains the story of the statue into a microphone in a fake breathy, gothic voice. There were a lot of confusing dates, but luckily Anna is really good at oral comprehension, and she explained it to me afterwards. Turns out that during World War I, they melted part (or all?) of the statue, but before that it had been taken by some enemies of the town. To be honest, I don't think Anna even got all of it - and it didn't help that the choir was still singing in the background.

The next stop was outside the basilica. The basilica in Mézières isn't anything to look at from the outside really, but if you step inside, there are the most expansive stained glass windows with incredible detail. It is really amazing. However, we were outside today, and there was a soprano up on a high balcony singing, and a celloist in the courtyard, and of course the crazy, obviously not dead women, who were trying to revive or put a spell on one of their number. After a bit, they got up and did this very possessed dance that for sure would have had them hung in old-school Salem. Actually, maybe even today in Salem - it was that weird. But after they seemed to recover from their out of body experiences, the parade moved on. We went to the oldest high school in Mézières and high school-aged teenagers danced in the courtyard and then on the railings to the school. It was really well choreographed with the music, and the costumes were interesting as well. I even recognized some students from my school (underneath the face paint). I'm not sure of the significance of the dancers, but they did a good job nonetheless. There was more gothic talk from the window at the high school too.

We walked on to a factory of some sort that had Bayard's name over the door, and from the bridge over the river, you could see the younger dancers from the parade dancing next to the old ramparts. (Mézières had this great wall surrounding it, which doesn't really exist anymore, but there are parts of it still left. Bayard defended the walls and I think that is why the dancers were there. Anyways, we continued to follow the horse cart and a drum line joined in to add lots of rhythm to the parade. Finally we got to the statue. We could tell we had arrived by the large sheet with the bottom of a statue sticking out form underneath it. It was seriously like a little kid hiding behind curtains where you can see their shadow and most of their legs. But then "Bayard" got up to talk about how glad he was to be seeing a likeness of himself in the town and then went into this fury about the battle. I can't tell if he lost his place or if it was a planned abrupt stop, but he looked like he had forgotten what came next. He recovered by going into a dialogue about how the war was over now and we were all bound together by good will, etc, etc, and then he handed the microphone over to the mayor. The mayor thanked everyone and their mother, including people who weren't present, and then "Bayard" helped her pull down the sheet. The actor - who was the president of the Bayard association - freakishly resembled the statue, hair and crooked nose and all. But then it was over. The band didn't even play closing music, everyone just sort of started dispersing. It was the strangest festival I've ever been to. And no one ever explained the crazy women who occasionally played dead and danced around.