World Acadian Congress organizers begin bid for family reunions

Posted June 07, 2011, at 4:36 p.m.
Last modified June 07, 2011, at 5:54 p.m.

MADAWASKA, Maine  — Knowing that family reunions are a critical part of any World Acadian Congress, organizers of the cultural event being held in Maine, Quebec and New Brunswick in 2014 came together Tuesday to launch the first round of open applications for groups interested in hosting such reunions.

The call for groups to submit reunion proposals was made Tuesday from the Historic Acadian Landing Site in St. David Parish, Madawaska. The location is significant, as a 14-foot marble cross stands there to honor the pioneer Acadian and Quebecois families who settled on both shores of the St. John River in 1785. The community also sits across from the first parish of the Madawaska Territory — Saint-Basile, New Brunswick.

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 winning the bid to host 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.

In the past, the event has attracted more than 50,000 visitors during the 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 between $30 million and $50 million in the host region.

Organizers said family reunions are key to drawing the more than 50,000 visitors.

“They mostly come for the reunions,” Jason Parent, president of the Maine delegation to the international organizing committee and chairman of the family reunion task force, said Tuesday. “They are a huge draw, and that attendance is a big benefit because these people need lodging, and they need to eat and to buy gas to travel to different locations. They also shop in our local stores for mementos, which brings a big economic impact to this region.”

Emilien Nadeau, president of the international organizing committee, said that interest in hosting family reunions during the 2014 event has been high from people in Maine, New Brunswick, Quebec and other locations.

“We are now soliciting proposals and have a well-defined process in place to determine where these reunions will take place,” he said.

Joining Nadeau in making the announcement were Parent and Leo-Paul Charest, executive director for the 2014 WAC.

Parent said the family reunion task force has developed a formula it believes will help ensure that all areas have the opportunity to host such gatherings in 2014.

The first open round of applications for families, family associations, communities and others interested in hosting reunions in 2014 will continue through Nov. 1, 2011. During the five-month period, WAC staff, under the advisement of the family reunion committee, will work to bring together any competing applicants for reunions of the same family name to encourage collaboration and the submission of a single proposal.

At the end of the first round, the committee will come together to make formal recommendations to the international organizing committee on the locations of family reunions based on proposals submitted. The announcement of the first venues selected to host family reunions will be made early in 2012 at the same time as the second round of applications is launched.

Charest said that more than 80 families hosted reunions during the 2009 WAC, which took place in New Brunswick. The 2014 organizers are looking to beat that.

“We have a very ambitious goal,” said Charest. “Our goal is to have more than 100 such gatherings in Acadia of the Lands and Forests in 2014. Given our international region and the level of interest we have seen to date, I do not doubt that we can reach this goal.”

In addition to hosting reunions of families with traditional Acadian names from both within and outside the host region, the 2014 World Acadian Congress is welcoming applications from families of other lineage common in northern Maine, northwest New Brunswick and southeast Quebec. Once a family and community have been successfully matched and all necessary information has been provided to Congress organizers, host family reunion organizing committees will be provided with $500 in seed money to begin planning their event.

Applications for parties interested in hosting a family reunion in Acadia of the Lands and Forests in 2014 are available online at the temporary website for the fifth World Acadian Congress at www.cma2014.net. Paper applications can be picked up in person in Maine at all Norstate Credit Union locations. In New Brunswick, applications are being distributed through all branches of the Caisses Populaires Acadiennes. In the Temiscouata region of Quebec, they are available through the municipal offices in each community. Applications also can be obtained through the regional coordinators in Maine, New Brunswick and Quebec.

Informational sessions will be held in the coming days and weeks in all three regions. The meetings will detail the application process and provide the opportunity for interested individuals to ask questions about family reunions and the 2014 WAC. In Maine, the session will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 21, at Norstate Credit Union in Madawaska. In New Brunswick, the meeting will be held at 7 p.m. local time Thursday, June 9, at l’Edifice Maillet in St-Basile. The session in Quebec will be held at 7 p.m. local time Wednesday, June 29, at the historic site of Fort Ingall in Temiscouata-sur-le-Lac.

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