Greatest Franco-American City Playoff Bracket!? Who's In???
Updated: Dec 14, 2022
Sometimes the best ideas pop up when we’re yapping with friends - regardless of the presence of adult beverages- and we return to those ideas later on with a degree of actual curiosity. Such is the case of the Greatest Franco-American City question. I mean, we’re surrounded by them, we talk about them non-stop, and they’re integral to who and what we are. So yeah, the comment was that we could use a “Greatest Franco-American City” award. True to form, after the initial haha’s, I actually thought about it (nothing like a commute made worse by bad traffic). So….
First, every crazy idea needs a disclaimer. Here’s one for this topic: It’s the Greatest Franco- Americaine (with an E) City. Yep- we’re making this thing female. I mean, we’re talking French Heritage, and “City” (ville) is feminine, so there ya go.
Here’s another disclaimer- I’m a Northeasterner. I don’t know too much about the French presence in the Midwest or Gulf Coast. Heck I have more shelves of books about Quebec and the Northeast than I have actual books about the other areas. That’s why this thing is specific to the Northeast.
Next, we need criteria. How else are we supposed to compare things, especially with such a prestigious title on the line? Let’s get into *that*.
1- The population: How many Francos by number and/or percentage make up the population (gotta give the little ones a chance against the big ones, right?). We can look at current or historical figures.
2- The presence of Franco institutions (brick and mortar facilities, meet-up groups, Franco, French Language, Quebecois, Acadian etc- they’re all in play). And lastly,
3- Franco notoriety in current or historical media (books, articles, news segments, podcasts, blogs- they all count).
A city need not have all 3- it’s how well they do with any one, or combination of them.
Finally, we need a competition format. Enter the Sweet Sixteen Tournament. Yes, time to print out your brackets, because we’ll be filling them in eventually. But wait! Are we limiting this to JUST 16 cities and towns- nope. In true bracket format, we’re starting with conference winners; 15 total (ok- they’re more like the obvious choices), and adding a play-in for the 16th and final spot. We’re giving some of the lesser knowns a chance to hang with the big names. How fun- That means it’s actually 2 tournaments in 1. So…. ya ready?
The 15 auto bids in no particular ranking:
Starting in the French-heavy State of Maine, we have: Fort Kent, Madawaska, Orono and Lewiston. Jumping over to New Hampshire, the Granite State gets representation from Berlin, Suncook and Manchester (which sounds a lot better with the local accent). Often overlooked Vermont gets an entry in the form of Burlington-Winooski (yes we’re combining the two since geographically they’ve pretty much become one entity). Now for the fun of adding New York- yes, the neglected State of New York which is separated from New England by, well, nothing. So Plattsburgh, NY come on down! Whew- the Northern portion is coming on strong, but…
Now we head South -who doesn’t like to do that- and wind up in Massachusetts with gives us several of the usual suspects; Lowell, Fall River, Southbridge and Fitchburg-Leominster-Gardner (yes, another hyphenated entry, but they comprise the “Acadian Triangle”, not to mention Fitchburg & Leominster are hyphenated in everything else, so why not here?). With a tip of the hat to its active Franco Social Club, Connecticut gets a bid with Waterbury, and finally, we can’t talk about Franco cities without going to the Rhode Island jewel of Woonsocket.
There you have it, folks. The big 15. Now the play-in. To make it fun, this won’t be just any play-in. We’re talking an every-city-for-itself, over the top rope, battle royal. Same criteria, so for the 16th and final spot in the bracket, Let's get ready to rumblllllllllllle:
Maine gets the early nod again with Biddeford and Brunswick punching their tickets. New Hampshire adds the town of Colebrook and the Richelieu-Controlled City of Nashua. Vermont gets a pair of entries with Query the Past favorites Barre and St Johnsbury. Keeping with Query the Past and other recent literature, NY gets another shot with Cohoes. It might be Albany-Cohoes, or just Cohoes, but we’ll iron that out later. Heading back to Massachusetts, we’re talking about Holyoke, Worcester (gimme that famous Adam Sandler skit!) and finally, with Salem State planting the flag in The Point, we got Salem. Why not one more from Rhode Island with the industrial town of Pawtucket?
And there it is, my friends. First pass at the bracket, including the play-in. Reality check: the tournament has no actual pairings, so it’s up to you who wins. But there’s more- do you think someone’s been left out? Ranked too high or low? Just outside the boundary? Think about it next time you’re stuck in traffic, and let us know in the comments below!
This article is by native New Englander, Tim Ouellette. Tim has a deep passion for his Franco roots. Outside of spending time with his young family, Tim is a French-Canadian history buff and avid French language learner.