Sign kicks off Acadian congress countdown

Posted Aug. 10, 2010, at 12:04 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:53 a.m.

CYR PLANTATION, Maine — While the 2014 World Acadian Congress is four years away, the first official pre-congress activity — the unveiling of a sign welcoming visitors — drew more than 50 enthusiastic supporters Monday afternoon.

The gathering of Mainers and Canadians in Cyr Plantation witnessed the unveiling of one of four bilingual signs that will be erected in the St. John Valley to welcome people to the host region. Maine legislators, St. John Valley town officials and representatives from the state’s congressional delegation joined to watch.

The sign, which reads “L’Acadie des terres et forets Host Region of the 2014 World Acadian Congress,” is located at the Governor Brann One-Room School House on U.S. Route 1. It was placed next to the “St. John Valley welcomes you” sign.

The World Acadian Congress is held every five years in different regions populated by Acadians. The 2014 gathering 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, president of the Maine delegation to the international organizing committee of the 2014 World Acadian Congress, was at Monday’s ceremony. He said the territory of the Acadia of the Lands and Forest spreads over two countries, two provinces and one state, five counties, more than 50 towns and community groups, and more than 100,000 residents. Planning for the event has been and will continue to be a massive undertaking, he told the crowd, but one that will bring worldwide exposure to the St. John Valley and to the region as a whole.

Don Levesque, a member of northern Maine’s organizing committee for the WAC, agreed. He said the event would allow participants to rediscover their roots and their Acadian heritage while also discovering the beauty of the region.

Rep. Mike Michaud was unable to attend the event but sent his regards in a written statement. He offered his congratulations to those involved with the ceremony and to everyone who is helping organize the largest event ever to take place in the St. John Valley. Michaud said that the economic and cultural impact from the WAC would strengthen the region and relations between the host nations.

Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins also were unable to attend but issued statements that were read at the ceremony. Both credited organizers for assuring that the 2014 event would be held in the region and for their efforts to put together the celebration.

Collins said that it was “especially significant” to hold the WAC in the St. John Valley “given this region has a long and storied Acadian history.”

She pointed out that Maine’s history has been “strongly influenced by the work ethic of Acadian people,” including lumberjacks, farmers, fishermen and businesspeople.

Snowe said the event would “undoubtedly spur much-welcomed commerce to countless small businesses which are the economic backbone of our great state and nation, and will at the same time assuredly strengthen the iconic bonds of this extraordinary region of Maine for years to come.”

Three other signs that will mirror the Cyr Plantation sign will be erected before winter. One will be along Route 161 in Guerette, a second will be on Route 11 in Winterville, and the third will be on Route 1A in Hamlin.

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 congress.

Thirty jobs directly related to the WAC are expected to be created and an additional 160 jobs created indirectly, according to organizers.