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Tent, tables ready for White House state dinner for France

WASHINGTON (AP) — With the tent ready and the tables set for Thursday’s big state dinner at the White House, hostess Jill Biden took her French counterpart and fellow teacher on an outing to a language museum to highlight their mutual interest in learning and their growing friendship.

“We are friends,” Brigitte Macron, the wife of French President Emmanuel Macron, said as she and Biden clasped hands at Planet Word, a museum dedicated to words and language.

“We are friends,” Biden repeated before they again said they are friends.

The declaration of friendship fit in with the occasion. A state dinner is a high diplomatic honor, one the United States bestows only on its closest allies, like France, one of America’s oldest.

Biden and Brigitte Macron had their outing while President Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron held talks at the White House.

More than 300 invited guests were to begin arriving at the White House as the sun starts to fade, dressed to impress and looking forward to saying they played a small part in history — the first state dinner hosted by the Bidens.

Butter-poached Maine lobster, beef with shallot marmalade and American cheeses are on the menu for the red-white-and-blue themed dinner. Dessert is orange chiffon cake with roasted pears and crème fraiche ice cream. American sparkling wine will be served for the toasts.

“The design of this dinner was inspired by the shared colors of our flags, red white and blue, and our common values, liberty and democracy, equality and fellowship,” Jill Biden said Wednesday. “These form the bedrock upon which our enduring friendship was built.”

The glitzy party celebrating U.S.-French relations is being held in a heated pavilion on the South Lawn. Guests will ride trollies down from the White House and be seated at a mix of square and rectangular tables with dark blue silk cloths, red candles and arrangements of red, white and blue flowers, including white irises, the official flower of France.

Rented tableware is being used because place settings from the White House china collection are not allowed to leave the executive mansion.

White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford said 200 live Maine lobsters were delivered on Tuesday. Some conservation groups are calling out the White House for serving lobster from Maine, citing concerns about the threat to rare North Atlantic right whales from the fishing gear used to trap lobsters. Entanglement in gear is one of the biggest threats to the whales.

The White House had no immediate comment on the environmental concerns.