MADAWASKA, Maine — Every year, Acadians and their guests gather on the shores of the St. John River in St. David to participate in or watch a re-enactment of the 1785 landing of the area’s first Acadian settlers.
For the first time in 37 years, on Thursday, organizers of the event, held as part of the annual Madawaska Acadian Festival, moved it inside because of heavy rain and wind.
“We made the call this morning,” Jane Carter, festival chairman, said. “Everybody really pulled together.”
Instead of hiking down a well worn path to the banks of the river to meet canoes carrying people dressed in traditional Acadian and First Nations outfits, families taking part in the festival marched into a packed gymnasium at the Madawaska Elementary School.
Close to 40 families were represented, each carrying a banner emblazoned with their family crest.
The event marks the opening of the Acadian Festival, which this year is being held in conjunction with the 2104 World Acadian Congress.
Carol Bowden had come up from Goldsboro, North Carolina, with her husband, David Bowden, who has Dufour roots. The couple will take part in a Dufour family reunion while they are here.
“This opening ceremony was just beautiful,” Carol Bowden said. “It was so awesome to see the family’s come in like that.”
Thursday also was Bowdon’s birthday and her aunt Val Dufour of Madawaska surprised her with a birthday ploye — her first ever serving of the traditional Acadian buckwheat flatbread — as they waited for the opening ceremony to begin.
“Don’t worry, it’s edible,” one family member joked.
“Clearly, I need lessons on how to eat this,” Bowden said of the butter and brown sugar coated ploye. “And a napkin.”
In moving the re-enactment from the river to the school, Carter said numerous people had to be quickly contacted and go into action.
“We were four or five at McDonalds this morning with phones all calling people,” she said. “Within an hour, we had gotten ahold of everyone.”
Carter did not feel the ceremony suffered in any way from a change in venue.
“If anything, we may have had more people attending because it was inside,” she said. “We did what we had to do and I feel so proud and overwhelmed when I look around and see all the people who are so proud of their heritage.”
The Madawaska Acadian Festival continues through Aug. 21 and a complete schedule is available online atwww.acadianfestival.com/