March 15, 2013

Juliana L’Heureux: License plates give Acadian Congress a boost

By Juliana L’Heureux

Maine is spreading the word about the international 2014 World Acadian Congress through the sale of state commemorative license plates.

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The cost of the commemorative plates is $25, with $16 designated to support the World Acadian Congress. The plate can be displayed over a vehicle's front license plate through 2015.

The specialty license plateswill help finance the August 2014 events planned in northern Maine in Aroostook County, Quebec and New Brunswick, Canada.

Cost of the plates is $25, with $16 designated to support the World Acadian Congress. They can be displayed over a vehicle's front license plate through 2015.

The World Acadian Congress (Congress Mondial Acadian of CMA) is a three-week international Franco-American and Acadian cultural festival scheduled once every four years in pre-selected locations. The purpose of the Congress is to celebrate the French heritage of tens of thousands of Acadian descendents whose ancestors were brutally displaced by the British during the 1755 “le Grand Derangement," when French people were expelled out of Nova Scotia.

Acadian refugees who fled le Grand Derangement arrived in the northern Maine and Canadian regions in 1786, when they merged with other French-Canadians to build communities. A gathering of the descendants of the displaced families meets every four years to celebrate their heritage.

An anticipated 120 family reunions are scheduled to coincide with cultural and religious activities. Events are coordinated between Aug. 8 through 24, before and following the Aug. 15 annual celebration of the Acadian patron saint feast day of Our Lady of the Assumption.

Congressman Mike Michaud, a Democrat representing Maine’s second district and a Franco-American, was among the first to display the commemorative license plate. He received his at a March 1st presentation held at the United Way of Aroostook in Presque Isle.

Jason Parent is president of the Maine World Acadian Congress. He expects 50,000 international visitors to attend activities in northern Maine and adjacent regions in New Brunswick and Quebec.

“Planning is going well,” says Parent. “Community activities are coming along, sponsors are signing up and we’re in good shape for the programs planned,” he says.

While the clock is ticking closer to 2014, the American delegation is challenged to find $1 million to support the international effort.  Although the state of Maine committed $1 million over four years to help finance the state’s share of the international operating budget, the federal share is still outstanding.

Parent is optimistic about their funding prospects.

“We’re working with dedicated partners who are very motivated to help us. Offers of in-kind assistance and fundraising from (for-profit) organizations throughout Maine’s St. John Valley are helping us. We won’t allow a lack of resources to deter our collaborative efforts,” he says.

Sales of the commemorative license plate are expected to begin in the middle of December to help fill the $1 million shortfall.

Additionally, the Maine Arts Commission is helping the Maine Acadian Congress delegation to apply for federal grants to help fund some activities. Maine's Sen. Susan Collins, Sen. Angus King and ’s former Sen. Olympia Snowe are supporters of the Maine efforts to obtain cultural grants to secure the needed funding.

Maine issued a commemorative license plant in 1976 for the Bicentennial national celebrations of the nation’s 200th birthday.

“We enjoy an outstanding working relationship with our Canadian counterparts in the organization of this event. It’s the largest event to ever be hosted in northern Maine,” says Parent.

Legislation authorizing the commemorative license plate allows it to be placed over the existing legal plates on the front of vehicles. These special commemorative plates will expire in December 2015, and can remain visible on the front of vehicles registered in Maine until then. Legal license plates attached on the rear of vehicles must remain on and visible while the commemorative plate is displayed on the front.

“Acadia of the Land and Forests,” is the theme for Maine’s participation in the World Acadian Congress. More information is available at the website http://cma2014.com/en_accueil
 

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