When I headed to CMA 2009, I left home with the same gusto and anticipation I'd had in 2004 when I headed to Nova Scotia. Sadly, I admit that this time I was disappointed. Not with the family reunion organizers but rather with the CMA 2009 committees narrow view of what CMA is all about.
So I share with you the not so good first (just like bad news good news). I have reflected on my experience for a week since I returned from New Brunswick but I feel the same as I did while attending CMA.
I had a sense that much of their effort had been put into building a tourist trade during the few weeks CMA ran rather than putting their effort into working at making all of the Acadian descendants who would attend feel warmly welcomed. Anyone who wishes may disagree with me but that is how I see it. The other thing is that I did not feel it was all inclusive at CMA 2004 had been.
It is admittedly unfortunate that a comparison to 2004 must be made but it must. Wherever you went in 2004 there was a true spirit of welcome and warmth. It did not feel that way this time.
Now it is difficult enough to get to northern New Brunswick but what I found problematic in addition to all the travel getting there was the lack of good eateries. Some reunions did not provide lunch so we were on our own and all that seemed available were fast food eateries. One day we traveled a bit to go to a restaurant everyone said was really good. In my estimation, it was just "okay".
People who booked rooms said it was difficult - I was not among them as I traveled back and forth from Moncton.
I see all of those as a lack of inter-community workings of the CMA committee and the local communities.
The good news is that the family reunions were well organized and fun. The family association or committees formed to plan the individual reunions had obviously worked hard to make their reunions a reality.
The first reunion attended was the Bourg/LeBlanc/Melanson reunion. At CMA 2004, five thousand LeBlanc descendants attended the reunion. This time there were approximately 400 at the joint reunion of three families. Let me tell you though that it was thanks to the Louisiane Acadie, Inc. that this reunion took place and they started planning only two months prior to the opening of CMA. Why did our Cajun cousins feel they should organize this reunion? Because the CMA 2009 committee refused to allow the LeBlanc Family Association based in Moncton to organize a reunion in Memramcook. Gee, I certainly remember people traveling the length and breadth of Nova Scotia in 2004 and nobody complained. It was the same in 1999 in Louisiana and nobody complained.
I was amazed that they organized a lunch for all who attended and believe me when I say it was delicious. It was unbelievable that in the short time they had to organize this reunion that they were able to provide a warm lunch for those in attendance.
It was also wonderful to see Brenda Comeaux Trahan and her husband Ray Trahan whom I'd met at Donna Doucet's home in 2004. At the time Donna was the director of the Grand-Pré historic site and we would see a great deal of one another during my week at Grand-Pré. Brenda is the director of the Acadian Memorial in St. Martinsville, Louisiana . Since 2004, Ray founded the Louisiane Acadie, Inc. and I understand it to be a non-profit. Rachelle Dugas worked hard to get CMA 2014 back to Louisiana. She is the one who invited me to speak.
Of course, it was great to see my friend Michael Melanson at the reunion selling his wonderful genealogy book on the Melanson family. I also met Marguerite Melanson who authored "The Melanson Family - Acadian Family - Acadian Times". She too was selling her book that was published in 2004. It was also a treat to meet artist Daniel LeBlanc who created a wonderfully historic painting of our first LeBlanc ancestor, Daniel and his family. Prints are available of this wonderful painting and Daniel can be contacted through my web site. Of course, I also met other wonderful cousins from Seattle, California and Canada. It is always a treat to meet cousins at these reunions and hopefully we will all meet again at CMA 2014!
So all in all, we owe our Cajun cousins a debt of gratitude that the Bourg/LeBlanc/Melanson reunion took place and I am grateful to have been invited to speak on the Mothers of Acadia mtDNA Project. Thank you Louisiana!
The next day we attended the Doucet Family Reunion in the morning. Stephen White was the speaker and as always his presentation was of great interest to everyone in attendance. The talk was in French and in English. It was my understanding that about 400 attended this reunion. I'm not certain who all of the organizers were but perhaps someone will tell me once they read this blog. I do know that Jeannine Doucet Caissie of Massachusetts was involved. Jeanine and her husband Paul were the founders of the Acadian Cultural Society in Fitchburg, Ma.
That evening, we attended the Belliveau/Gaudet dinner organized by Paul Belliveau of Scoudouc. It was quite evident that Paul worked diligently at organizing this reunion and dinner. We were warmly received as we had been at the Doucet reunion. Stephen White was the speaker at the dinner and we heard another excellent talk.
The attendees at the Belliveau and Gaudet dinner was under 400 but I believe the number was a bit great for the reunion itself earlier in the day.
Truth be told, the numbers of attendees were small at many of the family reunions. I understand the Savoie reunion was large but by far and large I do not believe the numbers at most reunions were as great as in Nova Scotia in 2004.
Long before 2004 we saw television ads here in Massachusetts. We saw nothing this time. Some of the CMA 2004 committee took the CAT from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia to Boston to promote CMA 2004. Nothing this CMA.
During the early stages of planning for CMA 2004 I contacted the general manager and told her how New England Acadians had long been overlooked. Immediately, New England Acadians were posted to that CMA web site and included in the theme song. I was also invited to particpate at the CMA 2004 closing Mass at Grand-Pré as a representative of New England Acadians.
Though I contacted the CMA 2009 committee asking that they continue with this, nothing was forthcoming for or about New England Acadians. They sent me a message requesting suggestions and I responded. They never acknowledged my message. Well we have to be at least one million Acadian descendants in New England - we count for something. An opportunity lost for CMA 2009? I certainly wonder.
Anyhow, that is how I experienced CMA 2009 and it isn't to say that we didn't travel about. On Friday, August 21st we left the Bourg/LeBlanc/Melanson reunion and toured the Acadian peninsula. We visited the exhibits/tents set up at Pokemouche. We went to Caraquet and we visited the Acadian Village. We stopped in towns/villages where I took photos of the parish churches because they have always been the landmark of Acadian communities.
On Saturday, August 22nd when we attended the Doucet, Belliveau/Gaudet reunions I really was delighted to finally see Baie des Chaleurs/Chaleurs Bay that we have read so much about in our Acadian history. We can see Quebec from one side of the bay.
Some may not be pleased with my review of CMA 2009 - all I know is that it lacked "something" of what we had experienced in 2004. Some may say we should not compare but if so, I beg to differ.
So my congratulations to those family associations who worked so hard to make their reunions a success. They deserve our sincere thanks for a job well done! Their reunions were a success.
In closing, it is hoped that the CMA 2014 committee will follow the rules concerning the closing of CMA. The rule has been that CMA closes on August 15th which is the Acadian National Holiday. This committee chose to close on August 23rd. Another faux pas because many people accustomed to the August 15th closing had made reservations up to that date and left on the 15th. This CMA committee thought it was more important to hold their Tintamarre on August 15th (business as usual) rather than follow the rules. One of the questions when choosing a location for CMA is where that particular group will follow the rules and not make them to suit their wants.
Hopefully, the CMA 2014 committee will be more concerned with Acadian families than with tourism!