Sister city: Students from Carhaix, France, find Woodstock

Exchange students from Carhaix, France at KTD Monastery. (photo by Dion Ogust)

They came to Woodstock from their similarly small town in Brittany on a mission: to see a sister city, one whose name graced a giant festival, the likes of which happens in their own town each year. The dozen or so students who came to town last week from Carhaix, France — which hosted a similar group of Onteora students last summer — were used to being compared to us because of the huge rock festival their community’s hosted since the 1990s.

Onteora French teacher Christi Nelsen and the high school French Club were the official hosts, after they had been welcomed in Carhaix last year.


The whole process got its start during recent town supervisor Jeff Moran’s first term, when he was asked by officials of the French prefecture to visit their community because it perceived a spiritual tie to Woodstock…and it was the host of a large festival (which this year hosted former Woodstock resident Bob Dylan as a headliner for an audience of 300,000 or so Europeans).

The trip almost got scuttled this year by flight complications that saw the Carhaisiens arriving via a number of European cities, then unexpectedly overnighting in a JFK Airport hotel before taking a morning at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and heading up here, where they’ve been attending barbecues, having official visits with Town Supervisor Jeremy Wilber, Woodstock Festival promoter Michael Lang, and meeting some French and Belgian filmmakers in Kerhonkson over their week’s stay. The visit with Lang was especially of interest, as it took place at Winston Farm, the site of the 1994 Woodstock 25th Anniversary festival.

On a hot, sunny morning, at the trailhead to Overlook, various community hosts were describing how it would be necessary to make enough noise to scare away bears and rattlesnakes. Which prompted a second description, with charades and sound effects, as to what rattlesnakes were.

Other activities in the area were to include a visit to the Ulster County Fair, tubing on the Esopus Creek, pizza and tacos, swimming at Big Deep and in the Millstream, a visit to the Center for Photography, time at KTD Monastery, and a second visit to New York where they’d see Cirque du Soleil at Radio City Music Hall, get a private tour of the Guggenheim, and a picnic in Central Park.

Everyone liked the weather while their chaperones shook their heads about the heat.

“You’ve got more sun than us,” said a young man. “But I miss the butter from back home.”

“You remind us of us,” said the first girl, with a smile, as everyone headed up the mountain.

What did the kids like best about their trip to date?

The fact that U.S. kids their age could drive, said one young lass. The Festival of the Voice and its diva match up between a French and American singer in Phoenicia, said another.

The students will be in town until the middle of the week of August 13.