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Challans (Municipality, Vendée, France)

Last modified: 2021-07-07 by ivan sache
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Flag of Challans - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 28 February 2021


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Presentation of Challans

The municipality of Challans (20,898 inhabitants in 2018; 6,547 ha) is located 40 km of La Roche-sur-Yon and Les Sables-d'Olonne.

Challans dates back to prehistoric times, as evidenced by the megalithic sites found in the region. The name of the town comes from "kal", "a shelter", "a village".
During the Middle Ages, the town, controlled by the barony of Commequiers, hosted its first fairs. After the dismantling of the Commequiers castle in the 17th century, Challans became the administrative center of the region, and a district capital during the French Revolution. During the Wars of Vendée, the town was occupied by the royalists from the start of the insurrection on 13 March 1793. The first significant battle took place there a month later, on 13 April 1793, when the Republicans managed to take back the town. The Royalists attacked the town on 7 April and 6 June 1794, to no avail./P>

Olivier Touzeau, 28 February 2021


Flag of Challans

The flag of Challans (photo, photo) is blue with the municipal logo. The motto reads "Gate of the Ocean".

The original logo, blue on white, was unveiled on 17 December 1990 and subsequently slightly modified twice. The original motto, "Ici vous comptez vraiment" (Here You Really Matters) was placed beneath the duck, separated by a thin horizontal line and flanked on the left by a red square. In the second version, it was changed to "Porte de l'Océan", written in a cursive font, ascending from left to right; the line and square were dropped. In the last version, featured on the flag, the motto was amended to "Porte de l'océan" and place horizontally, separated from the duck by a thin curved line.
Deemed obsolete, the logo was completely changed in April 2021, for an elaborated writing, "Challans". The duck is no longer represented but by the two "l" of "Challans", which can also be read "deux ailes", "two wings", separated in the upper part by an orange red dot. The two "l" also form a smile.
[Municipal website]

The original logo was designed by Hubert Pacteau (1943-2014; tribute), a local painter, drawer, sculptor, and poster artist. From 1947 to 2103, he designed 40 posters for the Challans fair, and presided the fair's board from 1995 to 2004. He is also credited the first scenery of the Puy-du-Fou show.
Hubert Pacteau designed in 1991 for the Challans Autrefois association "Léon", the world's biggest poseable duck, as the fair's mascot. The next year, "Léon", drawn by a boat, was offered a maritime trip from Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie to Yeu island; the first attempt failed because "Léon"'s beak was not waterproof, but the second attempt was a great success, except for the crew who experienced seasickness. "Léon", now the whole town's mascot, is now equipped with a toboggan for children.
[Ouest France, 21 August 2014]

Challans is self-styled Duck Capital. Local poultry was awarded in 1994 a Geographic Protected Indication ("volaille de Challans"), which includes, among 12 specialties, the Challans / challandais duck and the black chicken.
Local tradition says that the Challans duck was bred in 1650 from crossing between wild ducks and ducks brought by Dutchmen commissioned to revamp the Breton marsh. Another tradition claims that the ducks were brought by Spanish seamen whose vessel had ran aground.
Highly prized in Paris, the Challans duck was sold there as Nantes duck because it was shipped from the Nantes railway station.

For 70 years, the Burgaud family has maintained breeding of Challans ducks at a top level. Most ducklings are acquired by famous restaurants in France and worldwide, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore included.
In Paris, "La Tour d'Argent" (website) uses only Burgaud ducklings for its emblematic dish, "canard au sang" ("blood duck"). The recipe indeed originates from Rouen; in the 19th century, farmers bringing ducks to the market of Rouen had to cross river Seine by the Duclair ferry. Locked in wooden boxes, several ducklings died from suffocation and were offered for free to local restaurants, which developed a special recipe to use them. Suffocated ducks retain their blood, therefore the characteristic reddish color of the flesh; moreover, the blood is used for the sauce.
Frédéric Delair, a cook from Rouen, acquired "La Tour d'Argent" in the middle of the 19th century and elaborated there in 1890 the "canard au sang" ceremonial that has remained practically unchanged since then. The duckling shall be carved "à la volée" (in mid-air), that is with fork and knife without being supported by a plate, by a "master ducker"; the bones shall be crushed in a silver press to extract juice to be added to the sauce.
Delair used to number his ducks and the record of ducks served to celebrities has been kept. No. 1,000,000 was served on 29 April 2003. A numbered certificate is delivered to each guest.
[Libération, 2 May 2003]

Olivier Touzeau, 28 February 2021