PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The event is still four years away, but coordination of the next World Acadian Congress-Congrès Mondial Acadien is progressing quickly, organizers said Wednesday.
Earlier this week, leaders of the three governments that will host the congress in 2014 discussed the event in Washington. During the meeting, Maine Gov. John Baldacci, New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham and Quebec Premier Jean Charest agreed to ask their representatives to hold a preliminary meeting in March.
The World Acadian Congress is held every five years in regions with people of Acadian French ancestry. It will be staged in northern Maine, northwestern New Brunswick and the Temiscouata region of Quebec in August 2014. This will be the first time it has spanned two countries.
The congress is expected to draw at least 50,000 people to the area over a two- to three-week period. The event has attracted visitors to regions that have included Louisiana and the Acadian Peninsula in New Brunswick.
In winning the 2014 bid, the Maine-New Brunswick-Quebec regions, operating under the title “Acadia of the Lands and Forests,” beat out competing applications from Quebec City and Louisiana.
Baldacci said in a statement that the leaders agreed in Washington that their respective administrations will make a concerted effort to help the organizers.
“Approximately one-third of the population of the state of Maine is Franco-American,” Baldacci said. “We are very happy to be partners in hosting this event.”
Jason Parent, president of the Maine delegation on the international organizing committee for the congress, said planners expect to learn more about hosting the event from Graham, as the Acadian Peninsula region of New Brunswick hosted the last World Acadian Congress last summer.
During the meeting with Baldacci and Charest, Graham pointed out that investment in the next World Acadian Congress would be money well spent.
Parent said Wednesday that he was pleased to see that Graham stressed the benefits of investing the event.
“One of our biggest challenges will be generating state, federal and private donations for this,” he said. “But I think that the economic benefits of holding such as event are very much recognized.”
The congress typically features more than 300 events, including family reunions, regional celebrations and sporting and cultural events. Hotels, restaurants, stores and other facilities typically see a significant influx of cash. The economic spin-off for recent congresses has ranged from $30 million to $50 million in the host region.
So far, local participation in the planning of the event has been heavy.
Earlier this month, two dozen community leaders from the St. John Valley came forward to serve on a coordinating committee that will organize activities in northern Maine.
According to Parent, the Maine Coordinating Committee will work under the direction of the international body and with communities and organizations throughout northern Maine to build awareness and plan events. Similar groups are being formed in New Brunswick and Quebec.
Leaders of the new coordinating committee were elected at a recent organizational meeting in Madawaska. Beurmond Banville and Lorraine Pelletier, both of St. Agatha, will serve as chair and vice chair, respectively. Denise Cote of the Grand Isle-St. David area was elected treasurer, and Sheila Cannon of Van Buren was named secretary.
The 24-member group comprises: Jesse Jalbert, Nancy Thibodeau and Susan Tardie, all of Fort Kent; Dona Saucier, Frenchville; Terry Ouellette, Lise Sirois, Beurmond Banville and Lorraine Pelletier, St. Agatha; Norman Cyr, Chad Carter, Jane Carter, Theresa Theriault, the Rev. Jacques LaPointe, Randy and Gemma Cyr, Annette Daigle and Mark Dionne, Madawaska; Denise Cote, Grand Isle and St. David; Don Cyr and Terry Helms, Lille; Thomas Cannon and Sheila Cannon, Van Buren; Danny Deveau, Cyr Plantation; and Romeo Parent, Caribou.
It is anticipated that Madawaska’s Acadian Festival will move from its traditional late June date to August in 2014 to coincide with the congress. Similarly, events including the Ployes Festival in Fort Kent, the Van Buren Summerfest, and homecoming and festival events in other St. John Valley communities will coincide with the August dates of the congress.
The coordinating group also will be responsible for organizing one of the three major events that occur at each congress. In the coming months a decision will be made at the international committee level to determine where the opening and closing ceremonies for the event will be held, as well as the largest celebration — the Acadian Feast Day festivities on Aug. 15. One each will be held in Maine, New Brunswick and Quebec.
The coordinating committee also will assist in resource development and in the efforts to determine where and when many of the family reunions that occur during the three-week congress will take place.