February 23, 2020
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Regional effort bids for Acadian congress

Contributed | BDN
Contributed | BDN

MADAWASKA, Maine — Organizers on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border say it’s money well spent, even if an application to host the World Acadian Congress in 2014 is denied.

The international planning committee representing towns, cultural groups and civic organizations in northern Maine, western New Brunswick and southeastern Quebec worked for eight months on the exhaustive application submitted to the Societe Nationale de l’Acadie last month.

The joint application covering venues in two countries is the first such international attempt in the congress’s history.

“Failure is not an option,” Etienne Deschenes, committee member from Edmundston, New Brunswick, said Thursday at a press conference in Madawaska, held to unveil a proposed World Acadian Congress 2014 mission statement, logo and slogan.

The committee selected the slogan “An Acadia of the people, an Acadia of the world: A new Acadia.”

The words, organizers say, represent both the idea of what it means to be Acadian on the local and community level, while embracing the identity of Acadians worldwide.

A 2014 World Acadian Congress in the region would be visually represented by a logo depicting a golden star with three brightly colored rainbows emanating from it, symbolizing the colors of Acadia — red, white and blue.

The payoff with a successful application is the worldwide exposure of this area as a tourist and cultural destination, Deschenes said.

“We are anticipating 50,000 new visitors and friends at the 2014 congress,” said Louise Martin, co-president of the planning committee. “We guarantee there will be hundreds of activities of all kinds equally distributed over the entire region.”

That region covers the St. John Valley of northern Maine and western New Brunswick and up to the St. Lawrence River and Cabano in Quebec, and is collectively referred to as “Acadia of the Lands and Forest” by the planning committee.

Economically, a World Acadian Congress in the area would generate an estimated $53.25 million while requiring an operational budget of $13 million

The application itself will end up costing around $75,000 and Deschenes said the process already has shown results.

“We are building a new tourist area,” he said. “If we sell ourselves as a region, we have more to tell about ourselves.”

For example, Deschenes said, Fort Kent could promote the fact it has a botanical garden, even though that garden is across the border and 20 miles away in St. Jacques, New Brunswick.

“Right now we do not sell ourselves like that,” he said. “We tend to think things that are more than two-kilometers away are too far.”

It is the regional approach that Deschenes and his fellow committee members say will tip the odds in the region’s favor when the World Acadian Congress 2014 site judges visit the area in June.

“We want to show them we are proactive and proud of this region and more than ready to host this event,” Lise Pelletier, committee member and director of the Acadian Archives at the University of Maine at Fort Kent, said. “The work that has already been done is a great promotional tool, and we will continue to work together as one region.”

The event, Pelletier said, would serve to reunite Acadians from around the globe who share a common ancestry, culture and language.

“There is a need for those dispersed by the great deportation to unite every five years at the World Congress,” Pelletier said. “There they can talk about their identity, share their culture and look toward the future.”

Today’s Acadians are descended from French settlers who were forcibly deported from Nova Scotia by the British in the 18th century.

Funding for the application process has come from municipalities on both sides of the border, Deschenes said.

If approved as a site, additional funding would come through donations and governmental grants, he added.

The first congress was held in 1994 in Moncton, New Brunswick. Five years later, the follow-up event in Louisiana attracted 300,000 people.

Currently, Quebec City and Lafayette, La., also are applying to host the 2014 Acadian World Congress and the final decision will be made in August.

Lasting a month, each congress includes up to 300 activities, conferences, cultural events, economic discussions and sporting venues.

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