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acadian acclaim

Spanning multiple locations, the Congrès Mondial Acadien will celebrate Acadian culture and history next summer.
Story By Sally M. Snell • Photos by Michael C. Snell

The Congrès Mondial Acadien, or World Acadian Congress, began in 1994 as a way to celebrate Acadian culture and history. Held every five years, the next congress begins at dawn on Aug. 8, 2014, in the “Acadia of the Lands and Forests,” where a small group of invited officials will journey to a remote area at the junction of Maine, New Brunswick, and Quebec to symbolically dissolve political borders. This ceremony will be broadcast live at seven meeting points on the territory where participants will gather for different activities.

soldiers

Above: Fort Ingall in Témiscouata-sur-le-Lac, Quebec, was built during the 1839 border dispute with the United States. It includes several reconstructed buildings.

In title: Citizens in Squatec, Quebec, celebrating Acadian Day. Integral to the event is the Tintamarre, which is an Acadian tradition of marching through one’s community making noise with improvised instruments and noisemakers.

Below: A statue of Evangeline at the Acadian Village near Van Buren, Maine. The village features a collection of historical buildings, including the oldest structure in Maine, the Roy House, which dates to the 1790s.

statue

The upcoming congress marks several firsts: the first time the congress will be held in multiple provinces; the first time it will be held in multiple countries; and the first time it will be held in multiple time zones. Descendants from around the globe will participate in the two-week event that follows. More than 120 families are expected to plan reunions.

The Great Upheaval

French colonists came to the land of Acadia (now known as Nova Scotia) in the northern Atlantic in the 17th century. From 1605 to 1755, they successfully farmed the land and lived in peace. In 1755, an event known as the Great Upheaval began as the British government removed the Acadians from the land. Some Acadians went to France, others to the 13 Colonies. Many found their way to present-day Louisiana.

Later, bands of Acadian descendants traveled up the St. John River and settled in the newly formed Province of New Brunswick. Acadians also settled in Témiscouata in Quebec, working on the Portage road for the governor of Quebec, and colonizing as railroads were laid.

In Acadia of the Lands and Forests, “everything is about culture, about the land, about the outdoors, a lot of outdoors activities,” says Michelle Daigle, regional congress coordinator.

Although the congress is more than a year away and event details are still being formulated, now is the time to begin planning your visit.

There are three “pillar” events:

  • Aug. 8: Opening Ceremonies, Edmundston, New Brunswick
  • Aug. 15: Acadian National Day, Madawaska, Maine
  • Aug. 24: Closing Ceremonies, Témiscouata-sur-le-Lac, Quebec

But throughout the congress territory, many towns–large and small–will have a designated day to host a special performance or event, with something to be enjoyed in each community every day of the two-week period.

New Brunswick beginnings

Edmundston lies directly across the St. John River from its American neighbor, Madawaska. The opening ceremony will be simulcast in Edmundston, with more activities to follow.

During your Edmundston visit, taste one of the food specialties, ploye, which is a pancake-like pastry made with regional buckwheat flour. Ployes are often served with butter or syrup, and a savory option is with cretons, a local pork paté.

Hunger satisfied, you’re ready to enjoy some of the historical sites. The Petit-Sault Blockhouse is a reconstruction of an 1841 British fortification.

The Acadian Odyssey Monument is east of Edmundston in St. Basile. Stop at the small log cabin chapel along the riverbanks and ask about the legend of the rock and the demon.

Farther southeast, the longest waterfall east of Niagara is found on the St. John River in the heart of Grand Falls/Grand-Sault, New Brunswick, near the eastern edge of the congress region along the U.S. border. Two overlooks and a visitor center provide breathtaking views of the gorge and 75-foot drop. The town of Grand Falls/Grand-Sault will host an International Showcase during the festivities. While there, ask about the legend of Malabeam, as well as the town’s connection to Secretariat.

West of Edmundston in Saint-Jacques, the New Brunswick Botanical Garden contains several themed landscapes on eight acres, and a hothouse filled with tropical plants and butterflies. Enjoy a contemporary lunch featuring peak season ingredients on the terrace of Café Flora. At dusk, multimedia shows are projected onto a circle of 12 granite monoliths.

Just off the grounds of the gardens is the Antique Automobile Museum. The collection includes approximately 20 autos, plus other items from a private collection.

More in Maine

When visiting Madawaska, host city of the Acadian National Day festivities, be sure to have small noisemakers and wear the Acadian colors (blue, white, and red) for the Tintamarre Parade, which is part of the town’s annual Acadian Festival.

The Tante Blanche Museum, a few minutes south of town, is a collection of four buildings, with historical artifacts and some genealogy information. Here you’ll learn about Maine’s Acadian architecture.

The 14-foot Acadian Cross Historic Shrine, situated behind the museum along the riverbank, is visible from the chapel at St. Basile, New Brunswick.

The Acadian Village, outside Van Buren, is a collection of interpreted structures and artifacts from the region, including the oldest structure in Maine, the 1790s Roy House; a consecrated chapel; and one of only three known statues of Evangeline, the heroine from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie.

Closing in Quebec

The congress’ closing ceremony will be in Témiscouata-sur-le-Lac on Aug. 24. Before or after the event, visit Fort Ingall, erected during the 1839 border dispute with the United States. The site includes several reconstructed buildings, with exhibits on the daily life of the soldiers and their families.

Fromagerie Le Detour, just east of town, has garnered many medals for its artisanal cheeses, which range from hard to soft cheese. In celebration of the World Acadian Congress, they have created a commemorative soft cheese: le Verdict d’Alexina, made with cow, goat and sheep’s milk.

The Province of Quebec produces three-quarters of the world’s supply of maple syrup. To discover more, head northeast through the rolling timbered hills outside Auclair to Le Domaine Acer, which operates an économusée, a “living museum” where you can discover the history and process of production. They have also developed a line of maple-based alcoholic beverages, which may be purchased on site. Along the drive, you may catch a glimpse of one of the region’s Celestial Gardens that incorporate sculpture and plant material to represent the solar system.

To experience some of the region’s best cuisine, secure a rare table at Auberge du Chemin Faisant, a guesthouse in Témiscouata-sur-le-Lac. Though proprietor Hugues Massey defiantly waves off any suggestion he’s a chef, his attention to detail and a menu that celebrates the freshest produce, meat, and seafood available make every meal an occasion.

A new national park, The Parc national du Lac-Témiscouata, may be open in time for the congress; it’s slated to open in 2013. Seasonal activities include snowshoeing, swimming, hiking, and boating.

Tips for Travelers

Watch the clock. The World Acadian Congress covers two time zones. Quebec and Maine are on Eastern Time, and New Brunswick is on Atlantic, which is one hour later. And with few lanes and few crossings, traveling between countries can take longer than expected, so it’s best to allocate plenty of time.

Bring a current passport. The dissolving of the borders during the congress is merely symbolic. A valid passport and other applicable travel documents are still required when crossing into Canada or returning to the United States.

Flights into Northern Maine Regional Airport (Presque Isle, Maine) and Bangor International Airport in Maine make accessing the congress region convenient. If you’re renting a car, check in advance with the rental company to confirm travel across the international border is allowed.

Make and confirm your accommodations early. Families planning reunions had already reserved entire campgrounds in the fall of 2012.

The story of the Acadians, indeed, is an epic one. It is fitting that the history and stories be remembered with a world-class gathering like the Congrés Mondial Acadien.

Sally and Michael Snell are contributors from Lawrence, Kan.

May/Jun 2013 Issue

BEFORE YOU GO

For more updated event information, click on the World Acadian Congress Web site at http://cma2014.com.


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