Louisiana hopes to host World Acadian Congress in 2014
A delegation from south Louisiana will head for New Brunswick on Wednesday to help celebrate the fifth annual Congrès Mondial Acadien, or World Acadian Congress, and to find out whether the Acadian fete will return to Louisiana in 2014.
The huge gathering of Acadians from across the world is held every five years, according to Ray Trahan, president of Louisiane-Acadie Inc., the nonprofit corporation that has spearheaded the drive to bring it back to Louisiana.
The first congress was held in Moncton, New Brunswick in 1994, and the second was held in south Louisiana in 1999. The third congress, in 2004, was held jointly by several Nova Scotia communities in the ancestral Acadie region and celebrated the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first French-speaking settlers in Canada. The 2009 Acadian World Congress will be held in the Acadian Peninsula of New Brunswick.
If the Congrès can be brought back to Louisiana, it would be “a great opportunity for us to showcase our state, meet relatives from far away and celebrate together a common past even though we live in different countries,” Trahan said.
He said the 2014 gathering, if it comes here, could generate $50 million or more in tourism and other revenue in Louisiana. The 2004 Congress had an estimated $100 million impact in Nova Scotia, according to the organizers there.
Also competing for the 2014 event are Quebec City and a region that covers the St. John Valley of northern Maine and western New Brunswick, collectively referred to as “Acadia of the Lands and Forests.
The announcement of who gets the 2014 Congrès will be made on Aug. 9 at 9:30 a.m. our time in Caraquet, New Brunswick. The announcement will be broadcast live via a special hookup to Vermilionville in Lafayette, which will feature free admission and Cajun activities all of that day.
South Louisiana has a larger concentration of Acadians than any place in the world, Trahan points out, “and there is not any better place to have such a gathering of our relatives, to memorialize our ancestors, and to celebrate the great accomplishments of the Acadian people.”
Besides the economic impact, he points out, the return of the Congrès to south Louisiana would help maintain an awareness of and involvement in south Louisiana’s Acadian renaissance, helping to keep the culture alive.
“Louisiana’s bid focused on involving the younger generation,” he said. “We can see that the survival of our Cajun culture, French language and heritage depend on people who will speak and live it for years to come. Now is the time to bring our young people into this. Hosting the World Acadian Congress would provide a boost that is badly needed.”
Trahan said the Louisiana proposal includes a $6 million budget for promotion and organization, and that the competing regions have offered about twice that.
Nonetheless, he thinks we have a good plan and a good chance at bringing it here.
Louisiana is a major sponsor of this year’s Congrès and state and local tourism and cultural representatives will be in New Brunswick to promote the state’s claim.
“Regardless of whether we win or lose, Louisiane-Acadie will continue with its mission to represent the Louisiana Acadiana population and will begin to focus more on our Cajun youth,” Trahan said.
Other officers of the organization include Elaine Clement, vice president; Loubert Trahan, treasurer; and Peggy Matt, secretary. Members of the executive board include Brenda Comeaux Trahan, Philippe Gustin, Lucius Fontenot, and Valerie Broussard.