CYR PLANTATION, Maine — An official sign unveiling here next week is designed to help kick off the largest event ever held in the St. John Valley, one that will have massive economic and cultural benefits for the region, organizers say.
The World Acadian Congress is an undertaking that requires much planning and a sizable financial commitment. But organizers are optimistic that hard work and a stream of activities leading up to the 2014 fete will lure the necessary people and resources to the region to make the event a success.
The World Acadian Congress is held every five years in different regions populated by Acadians. The 2014 fete will be staged in northern Maine, northwestern New Brunswick and the Temiscouata region of Quebec Aug. 8-24. This will be the first time in the event’s history that it will span 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.
Jason Parent is the president of the Maine delegation to the international organizing committee of the 2014 World Acadian Congress. He said Thursday that organizers are excited to hold the first official “pre-Congress” activity held in the Maine sector, which will take place at 2 p.m. Monday in Cyr Plantation.
During the event, one of four bilingual signs will be unveiled at the Governor Brann One-Room School House on U.S. Route 1 in Cyr Plantation. The sign will read: “L’Acadie des terres et forets Host Region of the 2014 World Acadian Congress” and will be located next to the “St. John Valley welcomes you” sign.
“After this unveiling, we have three other signs that we are going to establish before winter,” he said. “One will be located along Route 161 in Guerrette, a second will be on Route 11 in Winterville, and the third will be along Route 1A in Hamlin. All of the signs will mirror the Cyr Plantation sign and will be located next to the ‘St. John Valley welcomes you’ signs that already exist in those communities.”
Parent said that the unveiling of the Cyr Plantation sign would serve as the kickoff to the official countdown to the largest event ever held in the St. John Valley. One of the three major congress 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.
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.
Fundraising is a major priority for organizers, Parent said Thursday, as Maine’s commitment in state and federal dollars for the fete is $1.9 million. Early in the planning process, organizers met with representatives from the state’s congressional delegation to discuss federal funding options.
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins announced last week that she had secured initial approval of $1 million for Madawaska’s Northern Maine Acadian Development program. The program supports infrastructure and business development planning, and if the funding is secured, the town will use it for historic renovation, business preparation, and education outreach in preparation for the World Acadian Congress.
“The congressional delegation has been very supportive of us,” said Parent. “They recognize the significance of this event to the region. The funding request still has to be approved by the full Senate Appropriations Committee and then the full Senate, so there are still hurdles to clear. But we are very happy to have this support.”
A final decision on the federal funding likely will not come until the end of the year.
Organizers also are working to secure grant funding to finance the state’s commitment to the congress, and a number of businesses and organizations already have made donations.
All are invited to Monday’s ceremony in Cyr Plantation, where traditional Acadian and St. John Valley refreshments will be served.