New Brunswick’s St. John River will be the centre for two weeks of Acadian music, dance, theatre and family reunions.
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This summer, communities that form part of the Acadia of the Lands and Forests region will proudly unfurl their flags and open their doors to visitors for the World Acadian Congress Aug. 8-24. This cultural celebration, which is held every five years, reunites Acadian families from France, Louisiana, the Maritime provinces, Quebecand francophone Ontario.
Historical snapshot: In 1755, British troops began the forced deportation of Acadian settlers to English communities along the Atlantic seaboard. Some had the courage to flee, heading inland along the St. John River and settling in the rolling hills of forests and pastures. The river is the artery of life between New Brunswick, Quebec and the state of Maine; the communities along the river are called the Acadia of the Lands and Forests.
Why here?Things are a bit different for 2014—it’s the first time the World Acadian Congress has told the story of three regions (river communities in New Brunswick, Quebec and Maine) across the borders of two countries. There are 50 communities in the region with the larger festivities concentrated in the centres of Edmundston, NB, Témiscouata-sur-le-Lac, QC, and Madawaska, ME. This regional blend also brings together a trio of languages: French, English and Mi’kmaq.
The centre of the action: Family gatherings are at the heart of the Congress’s two-week program. More than 50,000 individuals from 125 families are expected to join in the reunions, some with attendance in the thousands. People searching for their roots can log onto the event’s genealogy website and search by name for their family history. There’s a list of special activities planned for each family reunion.
What to do: The two-week celebration begins with a symbolic erasing of the political borders by elders from each of the regions. It’s a bit of a trek to the remote location, but the event will be broadcast live on big screens throughout the three territories.
There’s a spirit of inclusion and common heritage that permeates the celebration of more than 400 years of Acadian culture. People will be gathering to celebrate a grand outdoor mass; concerts feature dance, fiddle and traditional tunes; singer-songwriters like Roch Voisine and Zachary Richard will be on hand to excite the crowds. Music is at the heart of Acadian culture and many local and up-and-coming songsters will have the chance to show their best.
Towns—small and large—have events planned on every day, such as community breakfasts with Acadian artists, theatre plays, hundreds of food and cultural exhibits at the ExpoMONDE in Grand Falls and youth summits. There will even be some of the renowned and boisterous Maritime kitchen parties. Outdoors enthusiasts can hop on two wheels for a vélo tour or grab a paddle to canoe or kayak along the St. John River. There are dozens of sporting events for every conceivable activity from baseball to ultimate Frisbee. At each day’s end, fireworks will light up the nighttime skies.
Save the date: Aug. 8-24, 2014.
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