FORT KENT, Maine — Acadians in northern Maine, New Brunswick and Quebec are throwing a two-week-long party and everyone is invited.
The 2014 World Acadian Congress kicks off Aug. 8 and for the first time in the event’s 25-year history the host region covers two countries as it straddles the Maine-Canadian border along the St. John Valley and extends into the Temiscouata region of Quebec, an area that has been dubbed “Acadia of the Lands and Forests.”
“Since the first day we started talking about this we have talked about it being inclusive,” Leo Paul Charest, 2014 World Acadian Congress executive director, said Thursday prior to a press conference for the event in Edmundston, New Brunswick. “That inclusivity is one of the many wonderful values of this area.”
Held every five years, the World Acadian Congress brings together Acadians from around the world, their friends, family and anyone interested in all things culturally or historically francophone for two weeks of celebrations, family reunions, athletic events, meals, symposiums, concerts and parties.
Charest estimates more than 50,000 people will visit the area over the event’s 17 days, creating a $60 million economic impact he hopes will continue long-term with future collaborative projects.
“We talk of creating a legacy,” Charest said. “That legacy is one of the people in the region working together for the economic benefit of the entire area.”
But in the short term, it’s all about the upcoming cross-border party.
Highlighting the event, Charest said, are the three “pillar days” Aug. 8, 15 and 24.
Opening ceremonies take place Aug. 8 featuring a televised, live broadcast of “Sunrise Over Acadie of the World” where the borders of Maine, New Brunswick and Quebec meet at Beau Lake.
Later that day more than 500 artists are set to perform as part of the congress’ opening ceremonies at 5 p.m. at Edmundston’s Turgeon Park.
Aug. 15 is Acadian National Day, which includes a giant “Tintamarre” in Madawaska starting just before 5 p.m. where the idea is to gather and make as much celebratory noise as possible using whatever noisemakers are handy, from pots and pans to whistles, bells and drums.
For that one day, Charest said, the international bridge between Madawaska and Edmundston is open to pedestrian traffic only and shuttle buses will be available on both sides of the bridge.
The 2014 World Acadian Congress comes to a close Aug. 24 on the banks of Lake Temiscouata in Quebec with a water-themed performance and concert.
In between the three pillar days, more than 50 municipalities in both countries have numerous community events planned highlighting whatever it is that makes their town unique and special.
Want to learn about the Acadians in Maine? Head over to the Madawaska High School cafeteria for a presentation by Lise Pelletier, director of the Acadian Archives at the University of Maine at Fort Kent campus on Aug. 18.
Have a hankering for some ployes? Those traditional buckwheat pancakes of Acadia will be featured at the Ploye Festival in Fort Kent.
Looking for a little friendly competition? Take part in a cross-border tug-of-war over the St. John River between Van Buren and St. Leonard, New Brunswick on Aug. 10.
Speaking of crossing the river, there is a reenactment of the old ferry boat crossings over the St. John River on Aug. 14 in Grand Isle.
From Aug. 14-23 in Grand Falls, New Brunswick, is the Expo Mond, a pavilion dedicated to showcasing the “taste and smells of Acadia.”
Ongoing multimedia displays and activities are open to the public throughout the congress at the Multimedia Pavillion in Edmundston.
Historical tours, demonstrations, farmers markets, craft fairs, performances and family reunions are scheduled daily for the entire 17 days.
Working with two countries in two time zones and two languages has presented a bit of a challenge, Charest said, but in the end everything and everyone is just about ready to welcome the world to Acadia.
Charest estimates between 70 and 80 percent of the activities and events will be in French, the language of Acadia, but stressed non-French speakers will have little difficulty getting around or being understood.
“That is who we are,” he said. “We want to help others understand and we are ready to help translate when needed. No one should be afraid to come just because they may not speak French.”
The World Acadian Congress does have an international border running through it and Charest said passports are needed to cross back and forth.
“This is really a once-in-a-lifetime event,” Charest said. “We are not going to see anything like this in our area again for a very, very long time.”
A complete 2014 World Acadian Congress shcedule, including information on lodging and how to obtain tickets for events, is available at http://www.cma2014.com/en/.