St. John Valley

Acadian Festival returning to the St. John Valley

MADAWASKA, Maine — The Acadian Festival is returning to the St. John Valley after a year of hiatus due to COVID-19.

The four day celebration is the largest event in the Crown of Maine, and regularly attracts thousands of visitors from across the country and the world to celebrate Acadian heritage and cultural traditions. It also brings an influx of business to local shops and hotels, especially in Madawaska where the events are centered. 

The event starts on Thursday, Aug. 12, and includes traditional Acadian traditions like quilt-making and a noisemaking, tintamarre parade, as well as games, live music and other attractions. The festival ends on Acadian Day, Sunday Aug. 15. 

Planning for the Acadian Festival began late this year as the planning committee gauged whether the pandemic would sideline the event for a second year in a row, Acadian Festival co-chairman Sharon Boucher said.

“It’s just wonderful for people to be able to celebrate our Acadian Roots again this year,” Boucher said. “We were unsure if this year would even happen, so we started planning a little late and thought it would be pared down. But we have a full agenda and we’re very pleased with that and know that people will really enjoy it.”

Though the Acadian Festival is making a full return with in-person events throughout the weekend, COVID-19 does continue to complicate the celebration. 

Acadian Day is a national holiday in Canada, and Acadians usually flock across the border from New Brunswick to join in the St. John Valley’s festivities. Anywhere from 500 to 1,000 people typically travel across the border that weekend, Acadian Festival co-chair and St. John Valley Chamber of Commerce Director Sharon Boucher estimated.

The U.S. border is still sealed to Canadians, however, even as vaccinated U.S. citizens gained full permissions to cross on Monday, Aug. 9. For many in the St. John Valley, that means family and friends will be separated for the holiday. 

“We are so sorry to not have our Canadian visitors to share this event with again this year,” Boucher said. “They add so much to our festival each year.  Our symbiotic relationship with our friends on the “other side of the river” is a big piece which we will sorely miss this year.”

The festival coincides with two other major cultural events in the Crown of Maine, the Ploye Festival and the Muskie Derby, both in neighboring Fort Kent. 

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