Pride could bring Congres Mondial Acadien to Madawaska
Monica Pettengill Reporter
Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009
ST. JOHN VALLEY – Exhibiting pride in their Acadian heritage has never been a shortcoming of the residents of the St. John Valley, but now that same pride could very well be the deciding factor in a major world event coming to the region.
The Maine Acadian Heritage Council, along with the Forum of Mayors of Northwestern New Brunswick, have joined together to form a promotional committee whose mission is to host the 2014 World Acadian Congress in northern Maine and western New Brunswick.
The promotional committee refers to our region as the Acadia of Lands and Forests; a depiction they hope will distinguish our region as a unique geographic location without national borders that includes more than 30 municipalities and 200 associations on both sides of the border.
The event has the potential to bring upwards of $33 million in revenue to the region.
Town managers from the Valley, chamber directors from both sides and mayors from New Brunswick met last Thursday evening with the Maine Acadian Heritage Council and other event promoters at the University of Maine in Fort Kent to discuss the possibility of bringing the event to the area and also to explore means of raising funds to support the first stage in the process, creation of a dossier to present to the National Acadian Society, or the Societe National Acadienne.
The WAC event is a months long celebration of Acadian culture and includes dozens of family reunions.
“Think Madawaska’s Acadian Festival times 75 to 150,” said group coordinator Etienne Deschenes.
It also would include some sporting events and major cultural activities that have in the past drawn in crowds of up to 300,000 event participants and 50,000 visitors to the area.
Deschenes said the Acadian World Congress has been called the Olympics of culture in the French communities.
There area at least three other areas known to be competing to host the event in 2014. Contenders for the honor, besides the local region, include Louisiana, Québec City and the Gaspésie region of Québec province.
The committee in charge of promoting the event will spend the next three months preparing a dossier that will include a video, calendar of events, and other marketing materials that will all serve to convince the SNA that the Acadia of Lands and Forests region is the best place to host the event.
In March the group will submit the dossier and commence what they have affectionately dubbed “Operation Charm” which will continue through the SNA decision to be announced on Aug. 15.
Operation charm includes a visit from a committee of the SNA in charge of choosing the perfect location for the event.
They look for a region’s ability to host the event by examining both the financial capacity and the local infrastructure of an area.
Other factors the committee will take into consideration are the area’s French speaking background, the organization and willingness of communities looking to host, and the amount of Acadian pride that potential host communities exhibit.
Deschenes said this is the first time there has been an international application to host the event.
He said there area many advantages to choosing our region to host the event including the capacity for housing, a university on each side of the border, proximity and dynamism of municipalities, existing organizational structures, recreational and cultural facilities, important cultural and economic associations, enviable geographical location, and the general safety of the area, among others.
The promotion committee will work to overcome possible political opposition at the state or national level, the region’s lack of experience hosting events of this magnitude, and the fact that New Brunswick is hosting the 2009 Congrès mondial acadien.
Deschenes said the promotion committee has a lot of work to do and not a lot of time to do it. Communities in New Brunswick have committed to giving the committee about one dollar per capita towards the preparation of the dossier.
St. John Valley communities on the Maine side of the border will now see if there is any willingness to contribute. Deschenes would like to see a budget of between $40,000 and $60,000 for the dossier.
“Cities like Québec,” explained Deschenes, “will submit a gold-plated document.”
While he recognized that this area will not be able to commit to the same level of funding that a city like Quebec might have, Deschenes said that the Acadia of Lands and Forests region best chance to host the event will be to “do it from our heart and relay our feeling that we wish to do this here [to the SNA].”
Above noted article posted courtesy of the The St. John Valley Times, a division of Cleveland Newspapers, Inc.