By Eric Bourque
Nearly six decades after it was launched, Clare’s Acadian festival continues an annual celebration of Acadian culture that this year is scheduled to open Saturday, July 26, with a concert featuring Prenez garde, a five-member act from Caraquet, New Brunswick.
The show – part of an evening that will include the festival’s opening ceremony – will be held at Chez Évelina’s in Little Brook at 8 p.m.
The festival again will offer a variety of activities – music, dinner theatre, boat parade, fun run, hike, children’s parade and more – including the annual parade and bazaar, which are scheduled for Sunday, July 27. The bazaar, held at Université Sainte-Anne, gets underway at 10 a.m. The parade – traditionally one of the festival’s signature events – begins at 1:30 p.m. at Chez Évelina’s and goes to the university campus in Church Point.
The festival this year goes to Aug. 3, then takes a break before wrapping up with National Acadian Day celebrations Aug. 15. This marks a departure from recent years, when festival activities pretty much filled the period between late July and mid-August.
“People seem to appreciate that it’s going to be more condensed and focused because they were saying it was too long,” said Daniel LeBlanc, the Clare festival’s artistic director. “It used to be like two-and-a-half weeks … and it just felt like there was a lot of stuff and you kind of got lost in the program.”
Music is always a big part of the festival. Aside from the opening night show, this year’s festival includes a fiddlers night Aug. 1, Louisiana Night Aug. 3 (featuring Jo-El Sonnier and Waylon Thibodeaux) and an Acadian Day concert Aug. 15 with Clare performers Blou, Arthur Comeau and an ensemble of local musicians.
The Acadian Day activities are considered part of the festival, LeBlanc says.
Meanwhile, although the focus right now is on this year’s festival, organizers are looking ahead to 2015, when the Clare Acadian festival will be held for the 60th time. The plan is to start promoting next year’s milestone festival on the concluding day of this year’s festival: Friday, Aug. 15.
Next year also will be the 125th anniversary of Université Sainte-Anne and this too will be part of the festival-related celebrations in 2015, LeBlanc says.
For many people – former Clare residents who perhaps live away – the festival is a time for coming home and spending time with family and friends. LeBlanc says they get lots of emails from people asking for the festival dates, what day the parade is etc.
“I think that’s one of the reasons we want a condensed version,’ he said, “(so) that people can all come at once and really get that feeling of (community) … and celebrating the Acadian culture.”