An event on this scale in a little town in the Nièvre department really needed to have its very special official inauguration – and this is indeed what happened. It began with the inaugural parade, starting from the gymnasium in the sports centre, passing through the centre of Château-Chinon and ending up at the town hall. Luckily the rain stopped just in time for the parade to take place in the dry.
the long line of delegations crosses the fields and the local area
When the parade reached the town hall, the ‘L’and Cuivres’, a Dixie brass band from the nearby town of Montceau-les-Mines greeted the delegations with the strains of the European anthem performed in the New Orleans style, which seemed to please everyone present, including a number of VIPs; then came the official speeches, beginning with that of school director Claude Carriot who took the opportunity to express his warm thanks to Christiane Keller, before thanking the town hall’s departments for all their help. He spoke of the importance of cultural exchanges, exchanges of friendship, the magic of Christmas, the charms of Burgundy, the European spirit of this Christmas in Europe event, and finally of the hard work put into this festival by both students and teachers. Mayor Henri Malcoiffe then welcomed everyone and made it clear how much the School was a source of pride to the whole region. He also spoke of Europe and of this ‘historic day’ for Château-Chinon, proudly mentioning the important contribution of Claude Carriot and Jean Michel Wautelet.
Finally Senator René Pierre Signé spoke of the significance of the day’s events, and reminded his audience of the famous names of Europe’s founding fathers, and of those more recent dedicated Europeans such as Helmuth Kohl and François Mitterrand. And finally he recalled that Victor Hugo had also been a European Citizen avant la lettre – before congratulating the school and the town, which ‘is right to be proud’ of its reputation.
Speaking briefly but from the heart, Christiane Keller spoke of the enthusiasm generated by Christmas in Europe, which was now being held for the third time in France, after Kaysersberg and Bonneville. And speaking for everyone present, she said how pleased we all were to be here, and warmly thanked the school’s teams for their commitment.
A little later, following a well-established tradition, came the obligatory family photo to fix for posterity these moments of unfettered joy shared by the delegations in the true spirit of the AEHT!
Once this tradition had been observed the parade reformed and made its way back to the gymnasium; this time, as it passed through the small Christmas market, there were rather more bystanders and stall-holders than before, and as the parade passed them, the children were given a good supply of sweets and sweetmeats.
The last stage of this memorable afternoon of Saturday December 6th was the official opening to the public of the exhibition itself, with the obligatory cutting of the tricolore ribbon. With Claude Carriot and Jean Michel Wautelet on either side, Christiane Keller carried out this duty with obvious pleasure, while the numerous members of the public who had followed the parade didn’t need to be asked twice to come in and admire the stands a few moments later – and then to be ambassadors for the following day’s visits.