CYR PLANTATION, Maine — With the World Acadian Congress still three years away but planning ramping up daily, members of the organizing committee on Thursday announced an ambitious preliminary program geared toward enhancing cultural pride and attracting a significant tourist presence to the two nations hosting the event.
The announcement was attended by members of the WAC international organizing committee, regional representatives and other guests. The preliminary program will include family reunions, a youth rally, women’s summit and panel and roundtable discussions.
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 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,” bested applications from Quebec City and Louisiana.
Jason Parent, president of the Maine delegation to the WAC International Organizing Committee said Thursday that many partnerships have already been formed between the international organizing committee and businesses, government entities and organizations. This collaboration has allowed representatives from Maine and Canada to cobble together a preliminary program that they believe will attract large crowds to both nations and strengthen relationships between various groups and organizations for years to come.
Opening ceremonies will take place on August, 8, 2014, in New Brunswick, and Acadian National Day will be held on August 15, in Maine. Closing ceremonies will be held on August 24, in Canada. One of the major attractions of the event will be family reunions that are expected to attract visitors from across the nation and the world.
The kickoff of the organization of family reunions, which is central to the attraction of a large number of visitors, was unveiled on June 7 in Maine. The aim is to have 120 families reunite. Entry forms are already being received.
“That is a higher number of reunions than have been held in past Congresses,” Parent said. “One of the things that will be different about our event is that we are inviting families that don’t necessarily have an Acadian heritage to host reunions. If they live anywhere in the region that encompasses Acadia Of The Land and Forest, we consider them Acadian and are encouraging them to host reunions and to enter forms so that we can include them in the Congress program.”
Parent said that inviting more families to host reunions “ties into the legacy of one concrete nation” that organizers are trying to promote.
“All of these families are assets,” he said. “And we want the legacy of the Congress to extend well beyond just the two and a half weeks it will take place in 2014. People in the nations who are involved in this are already forming partnerships, whether it is to organize the Congress or host events or put on family reunions. We think that greater things will happen well beyond 2014 as a result of that collaboration.”
As part of Thursday’s events, organizers also challenged communities in Acadia of the Lands and Forests to start thinking about programming they can put on during the 2014 event. Parent said that organizers have set a goal of having one event in each community.
“We held meetings with representatives from the municipalities and challenged them to start thinking about what sort of events they can host during the Congress,” he said. “Now is the time to start thinking of what they can do. These events will bring visitors and income into their communities, so we think it is very important that they start planning early and focus on an event or more to tie into the overall event.”
The preliminary program also includes several theme days, from Maine Day, France Day and Children’s Day to Louisiana and Cajuns Day to Francophonie International Day.