CYR PLANTATION, Maine — As officials with the 2014 World Acadian Congress make ongoing adjustments to the schedule for the event, they also are building support for the fete in Maine and across the globe.
Jason Parent, president of the Maine delegation on the WAC international organizing committee, said Tuesday that organizers have begun forging relationships with various potential partners that he and other event planners believe will ensure the event’s success.
One of those partners is Christophe Guilhou, consul general of France at the French Consulate in Boston. Parent and Virginia Joles, president of Leaders Encouraging Aroostook Development, recently visited with Guilhou to brief him on the 2014 event and to ask for the support of the French government.
Parent said Guilhou was “very pleased” to learn of the WAC and has accepted the Aroostook contingent’s invitaton to visit the region this summer. Organizers are hoping to get Guilhou and the consul generals of France in Moncton, New Brunswick, and Quebec City, Quebec, together in the region at the same time in order to build support for the WAC in France. They also hope that their efforts will help to lure high-level French, U.S. and Canadian leaders to the August 2014 event.
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 from Aug. 8 to 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 that have included 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 activities. 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, according to organizers.
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.
Planners already have been meeting for more than a year in preparation. Last month, the state pledged to commit $1 million to the festivities over the next four years.
At the same time, the group is still struggling to secure another $1 million to fund the event 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.
Parent said Tuesday that organizers continue to work with the congressional delegation to find funding. The group should hear later this week if they can get a federal representative appointed to the Maine organizing committee to help with securing federal money. Organizers also have been seeking grant money and other funding through groups such as the Maine Arts Commission.
Parent said he and Joles also asked Guilhou for financial assistance from the French government, particularly with Maine’s efforts to host events on Aug. 15, 2014, which is the Acadian National Feast Day.
One of the largest activities, a concert featuring traditional Acadian entertainment, will be held that day. It customarily draws between 20,000 and 30,000 people and will be broadcast live on Canada’s French language channel.
Parent said organizers will be communicating with Guilhou’s office in the coming weeks to set up a date for him to visit the region.
A delegation from Acadia of the Lands and Forests will travel to France next month to attend an expo in Poitiers, where they will promote the congress.