Acadian Festival draws 2,500 for reunion

Posted June 28, 2009, at 8:37 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:46 a.m.

MADAWASKA, Maine — At the 32nd annual Acadian Festival this weekend, it was all about making connections.

Close to 2,500 members of the extended Marquis family were in town for the four-day festival, highlighted by their giant family reunion.

“Everything is going great and we have a huge turnout,” Judy Paradis, Marquis family reunion president, said Saturday morning at the event’s registration at Madawaska high school. “It’s been very satisfying and so heart warming to see all the family members come in.”

With ongoing Acadian Festival events swirling around them, the descendants of Paul Marquis participated in special reunion activities including a talent show, a banquet, a mass and the planting of the ceremonial family tree — a red maple —– near the town’s Acadian cross.

A crowd of about 100 braved Saturday morning’s rain to watch the annual re-enactment of the landing of the first Acadians in northern Maine along the banks of the St. John River.

The Acadian cross marks the spot believed to be the site of that original landing.

“The people here have put in so much work and everything is so well-organized,” Lorraine Marquis-Routhier, said. “We just can’t thank them enough.”

Marquis-Routhier was in town with her two sisters, Claire Marquis-Lewis and Joanne Marquis-Ross, who had all traveled north together from New Hampshire to attend the reunion.

“We wanted to come up to meet other family members,” Marquis-Lewis said. “The people up here all seem to love this place and are so happy to be here.”

The trio had been in town for several days connecting with their extended family.

“We’ve seen a lot of people and I keep going up to them to read their name tags,” Marquis-Routhier said. “We’re still trying to find ourselves on the wall.”

The wall is the result of months of painstaking genealogical research and includes the entire Marquis family tree.

Printed out on paper, the chart covers all four walls of the high school’s cafeteria, and visitors are welcome to add or update information.

Much of the information contained on the chart is available because of local genealogist Muriel Dechene and her committee.

“This is the fifth family reunion genealogy I’ve worked on,” Dechene said from behind her computer table Saturday morning at the festival. “Once you get hooked on genealogy, you just can’t stop.”

It’s the desire to know where someone comes from that drives people’s interest in family history, Dechene said. That’s one big reason thousands attend the family reunions each year, she added.

“Some people don’t think they have any family at all,” Dechene said. “But we help them find family members.”

Information from Dechene’s Marquis family history research has been compiled into a four-volume set of genealogy, which was close to selling out by Saturday morning.

Outside the cafeteria, Gerald Bourgoin, a retired truck driver from St. Agatha, was admiring the painting of the St. Agatha Historical Society building.

The building was once the home of Ligorie and Annie Marquis, Bourgoin’s grandparents.

“I used to go over there often as a little boy,” Bourgoin said. “I remember my grandmother had a big garden and was always making rugs. It’s too bad she’s not alive to see this today.”

While Bourgoin had high praise for local artist Travis Lavoie’s work on the painting, he did have a critique.

“There’s only one thing missing from the painting,” Bourgoin said with a smile. “My grandfather sitting in the front window smoking his Camels.”

The Acadian Festival and Marquis Family Reunion wrapped up Sunday with a parade, fireworks and street dance.

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