PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — With donations pouring in and a massive planning meeting scheduled for June 18, plans for what is being pegged as the largest event to come to The County since the band Phish held concerts at the Loring Commerce Center a decade ago are well under way.
A central Aroostook County couple known for their philanthropic generosity are among those who recently came forward to assist officials in preparation for the World Acadian Congress.
The event is held every five years in different regions populated by Acadians and is expected to draw massive crowds to the area. The fete will be staged in northern Maine, northwestern New Brunswick and the Temiscouata region of Quebec. This will be the first time in the event’s history that it has spanned two countries.
In the past, the event has attracted more than 50,000 visitors for two weeks to host regions including Louisiana and the Acadian Peninsula in New Brunswick.
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 revenue. The economic spin-off for recent congresses has ranged from $30 million to $50 million in the host region.
In winning the 2014 bid, the Maine-New Brunswick-Quebec region, operating under the unified title “Acadia of the Lands and Forests,” beat out competing applications from Quebec City and Louisiana.
A signing ceremony in May kicked off official preparations for the event, which will be held Aug. 8-24, 2014.
One of the three major events, the Acadian National Feast Day, will be held on Aug. 15, 2014, in Maine. The official opening fete will be held in northwestern New Brunswick, and the closing ceremony will be held in Quebec.
Fundraising continues to be a priority for organizers. Officials announced Friday that Raynold and Sandra Gauvin of Mapleton had donated $2,000 through their established Gauvin Family Lighthouse Fund of the Maine Community Foundation.
Organizers plan to use part of the donation to hold a regionwide visioning session 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, June 18, at the University of Maine at Fort Kent.
More than four dozen area community leaders, government officials, members of the Maine regional coordinating committee, members of the Maine delegation to the international organizing committee and interested residents will gather at UMFK to start to create a shared vision for northern Maine heading into the congress.
The vision planning also will consider a sketch of the legacy the event will leave behind.
Attendees will work toward identifying specific strategic directions and initiatives so that the Maine regional coordinating committee can begin its own regionwide planning and engage more volunteers in preparing communities to stage the events.
Based on recent past World Acadian Congress celebrations it is expected that the total number of volunteers in the neighboring Maine, New Brunswick and Quebec regions will swell to 2,000 by the time festivities get under way in August 2014.
Jason Parent, president of the Maine delegation to the international organizing committee of the 2014 World Acadian Congress, said that the Gauvins’ donation comes at a “critical juncture,” when “the efforts to lay a solid foundation for this mammoth undertaking are in the critical infancy stage.
“As a couple, the Gauvins are strong supporters of numerous educational, cultural and community efforts throughout northern Maine and beyond,” he said. “We are so pleased to be among the beneficiaries of their generosity.”
A community leader and retired businessman, Raynold Gauvin is actively involved in numerous Aroostook County and statewide organizations. Sandra Gauvin is a lifelong educator who retired in 2003 after teaching for 25 years in both SAD 20 and SAD 1 at nearly every grade level and in most subject areas.
Raynold Gauvin said that he and his wife “feel very strongly about this event and its ability to affect the whole state of Maine.”
Organizers of the event will hold four town hall-style informational forums in early fall in Van Buren, Madawaska, Fort Kent and the Frenchville-St. Agatha area. The sessions will provide an opportunity for area residents to hear about the World Acadian Congress, what activities are being considered, and to provide an opportunity for community members to engage in the planning efforts as volunteers.