CYR PLANTATION, Maine — Now that the state has committed $1 million to a 2014 event in Aroostook County that is expected to bring a huge economic boost to the region and state, organizers of the World Acadian Congress are looking for a staffer to coordinate it.
Leo-Paul Charest, executive director of the 2014 World Acadian Congress, and Jason Parent, president of the Maine Delegation to the WAC International Organizing Committee, said recently that hiring a regional coordinator to help organize the event is now a “top priority.”
“We are very much looking forward to having the right person on board devoted to fully engaging Maine in realizing the largest event ever held in Acadia of the Lands and Forests,” said Charest. “This is a very important step. The coming months will be filled with key planning activity throughout our international region that will have significant impact on what happens leading into the year 2014 and, of course, during the Congress in August 2014.”
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 on 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 from recent congresses has ranged from $30 million to $50 million in the host region.
In winning the 2014 event, the Maine-New Brunswick-Quebec region, operating under the unified title “Acadia of the Lands and Forests,” beat out applications from Quebec City and Louisiana.
Charest and Parent said that similar regional coordinator staff positions already have been filled in New Brunswick and Quebec, and those individuals have been working with Charest and their respective provincial delegations and regional coordinating committees to mobilize their sectors for the coming activity.
The Maine regional coordinator will be responsible for working with Charest and other WAC staff under the guidance of the Maine Delegation to the WAC International Organizing Committee and Maine Regional Coordinating Committee to prepare the state for the 2014 Congress. The duties include formulating a strategic plan to mobilize the region; proposing a preliminary schedule of events for northern Maine that will happen before and during August 2014; leading efforts to encourage communities and area residents to hold family reunions in the region and supporting those initiatives thereafter; assisting international staff with fundraising efforts in Maine; and coordinating volunteers, including engaging in the work of various committees in the Maine sector.
While the group is working to find a regional coordinator, the Maine contingent also is still struggling to secure another $1 million that had been set aside in the federal budget.
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 requested $1.1 million in federal funding in a bill that was passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee last July. Collins pointed out in late January that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid never brought the bill to the floor for a vote, so the funding never materialized.
The congressional delegation continues to look for avenues for federal funding, and the Maine delegation is pursuing fundraising options to garner additional financing.
It is anticipated that more than 100 family reunions, ranging in size from 700 to 1,500 participants each, will be held throughout Acadia of the Lands and Forests in August 2014. In the coming months, applications for family reunions will be released on both sides of the border with an anticipated six-month period for volunteer organizers to submit proposals for consideration by the international organizational committee.
Interested applicants for the Maine regional coordinator for the 2014 World Acadian Congress are encouraged to send a cover letter and resume, along with the names of three references, to 2014 WAC Maine Regional Coordinator Search, Attn: Norman Cyr, 428 Main St., Madawaska 04756.